It seems that, barring a mishap, Chris Froome is going to win the Tour de France. Just as Brits cheered his rival and fellow Engishman Bradley Wiggins last year, they—and cycling fans around the world—want to see Froome take the title this year.
Even more important, I believe, is another hope expressed by his admirers—and one in particular: a guy named Stephen Roche.
He’s the Irish cyclist who won the “Triple Crown”—le Tour, Il Giro d’Italia and La Vuelta d’Espana—in 1987. I am not the only fan who believes he could have had a career to rival the greats like Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Mercx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain were it not for a chronic knee problem. Like them, he was a great overall rider who excelled in the mountains and on time trials. Also, he was as conscientious about his training as any cyclist who ever lived.
The thing that true cycling fans loved about him, though, was his form. In spite of his chronic injuries, very few cyclists have ever been as graceful and as powerful in the saddle as he was. Whether he was on a hors categorie climb or riding against the clock, he always exhibited the same fluid, symmetrical pedaling motion. And the rest of his body seemed to support it, in unison.
|Stephen Roche in 1987|
Near the end of his career, he faced accusations of doping that were never conclusively proved. Plus, I think cycling fans always respected Roche because he won, or at least placed highly” In the “classics”—races like the Paris-Nice and Tour de Romandy. In other words, he did not focus his attention entirely on le Tour, il GIro or la Vuelta and disregard the rest of the cycling season.
He has expressed hope that Froome actually is, and will remain, the “clean” rider he so far seems to be. Plus, from what I’ve read and heard, just about everybody who’s met Froome respects and likes him. If he can win clean, he—as Roche points out—will be a great ambassador for the sport.