Stephen Roche - Cyclist

When Stephen Roche was growing up in Dublin cars were much more rare than in recent times and his parents cycled everywhere. “So I wanted a bike and when I got it I just loved riding it.” In fact he showed a natural talent for handling two wheels and by his late teens was competing in events as an amateur. “I even got to the Moscow Olympics and it was obvious I had to make a decision: carry on in my day job as a maintenance fitter - well paid by Irish standards at the time - or go for a career as a professional cyclist. Anyway, I took the plunge - that was in 1981 - and I had twelve years riding internationally.”
Stephen RocheThat decision also started him on his long connection with France. “I joined the Peugeot team and I've been in and out of this country ever since. I've never regretted making cycling my job. I had a good career.” Stephen Roche is not a boastful man but he could be forgiven for talking about his great year of 1987. “Well, if you insist. That was when I won the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France and the World Championships all in a row. How did I do it? Determination and training played a big part but I'll admit the weather was on my side. I don't like riding in heavy heat but that year during those events it was cool, grey and rainy - just like Ireland, you could say - and that suited me fine.”

In 1993 he retired. Was that difficult? “Yes, and that's true of all sportsmen when they stand down. You're at a bit of a loss to start with. But I had to make a living. For many years I ran a company organising cycling holidays in Europe. More recently I've been in the hotel business here at the Roche Marina in Villeneuve-Loubet.” Does he still follow the sport closely? “I have to - my oldest boy Nicholas is now riding professionally and he's good. Of course, cycling's had a bad press recently with all those drugs stories. You can't deny we've had some black sheep but don't forget that cyclists get more tests and controls than anyone else and the results aren't always infallible.” And is this now his permanent home? “I miss some things in Ireland but I've been involved with France now for nearly thirty years. This is home.”

Visitors from Ireland are sure of a great welcome at the Roche Marina Hotel in Villeneuve-Loubet

Riviera Reporter 131: Feb/March 2009