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April 2006
   
 

By Barry Boyce, CyclingRevealed
Historian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Top 25 All Time Tours #5

1987: Drama on La Plagne

CR Timeline 1987 [also see Special Notes below]

Special Note 1: For the first time in Tour history, the race visited the City of West Berlin . The Tour started in the shadow of the Berlin Wall with the 6.1 km prologue time trial. After three stages in West Berlin, the Tour transferred to the Black Forest section of West Germany for two stages before returning to France on stage 5. The route then proceeded in the counter-clockwise direction around France.

Greg LeMond (USA) was unable to defend his Tour de France title after nearly dying in an off-season hunting accident in January. French champions Bernard Hinault had retired and Laurent Fignon's fitness had not fully returned to 100%. As a result, there was no clear favorite for the 1987 Tour. Bernard Hinault touted his former Le Vie Claire teammate Jean-Francois Bernard as the next grand French champion. Irishman Stephen Roche came to France with great form and earned a place on the list of favorites. Spanish climber Pedro Delgado and Frenchman Charlie Mottet were also in great form and rounded out the tough favorites list.

Stephen Roche arrived in France after winning a hard-fought victory in the Giro d'Italia. Roche's drive for the Tour's Maillot Jaune (race leader's Yellow Jersey) started with the prologue time trial through the streets of West Berlin . Roche could manage only a third place finish, 7 seconds behind Dutch sprinter Jelle Nijdam.

The first serious showdown of the Tour came on stage 10, the 87 km individual time trial (ITT) from Saumur to Futuroscope. Stephen Roche, a strong time trialer, stepped forward to win the stage, 42 seconds ahead of Charly Mottet (Fra). The win moved Roche up in the overall classification, but with previous time gains Mottet took the race lead.

The race headed into the brutal climbing stages in the Pyrenees Mountains and the classic stage from Bayonne to Pau shook-up the overall standings. Jean-Francois Bernard (Fra) attacked on the final climb of the day, the ascent of the Col du Marie-Blanque, and broke away with Erik Breukink (Hol), Luis Herrera ( Col ), and Pablo Wilches ( Col ). The breakaway rode into Pau with a 4-minute lead on the Maillot Jaune group. The time gained by the breakaway moved Bernard into second place in the overall classification with Roche in third place overall, 3'23” behind race leader Mottet.

As the Tour raced across the south of France , Mottet held firmly to his slim lead. The climbing stages in the Alps started on stage 18 with the 37 km ITT up the brutal climb of Mont Ventoux. Jean-Francois Bernard confirmed his talent as a strong climber by beating Luis Herrera and Spaniard Pedro Delgado for the stage win. For Bernard, the significant time gain was over Stephen Roche, who finished fifth 2'19” behind Bernard. The Frenchman put on the Maillot Jaune and presented France with a realistic dream of an overall winner.

The following day, the fortunes of the Maillot Jaune went badly. Roche relentlessly attacked on the first climb of the stage, the category 1 Col du Tourniol. Near the top of the climb Bernard suffers an untimely puncture. Quickly a teammate gave up his wheel and the race leader started his chase back to the lead pack. An inspired Roche continued to set a hard pace and started to drop riders from the lead group. He and Delgado broke away from the remaining group over the summit of the final climb, the category 1 Cote de Chalimont and rode into Villard de Lans together. The time gain was over 4 minutes on the Maillot Jaune. Delgado sprinted passed the Irishman for the stage win, but Roche took the race lead and donned the Maillot Jaune.

The battle for the Maillot Jaune was not done. Stage 20 featured the classic finishing climb to Alpe d'Huez. When the 201 km stage reached the base of Alpe d'Huez, the climbers began to attack. Roche and Delgado lost contact with the Federico Echave (Spa) as the lead group negotiated the 22 switchback turns of the climb. Echave rode steadily away and won the stage; Delgado climbed side by side with Luis Herrera and finished 1'44” ahead of a fading Roche. The Maillot Jaune and the race lead went to Delgado. The tired peloton had completed their third Alpine climbing stage, and with two brutal stages remaining in the Alps there was no time to rest. The Tour headed for stage 21 with the finishing climb of the Hors Categoie (hardest climbing slope) of the La Plagne.

Delgado's lead over Roche was a scant 25 seconds and when the action started on La Plagne the elite's of the peloton proceeded nervously. Delgado needed significant time gains on the final two climbing stages to distance himself from skilled time trialer Roche. Numerous attacks thinned the numbers in the lead group until Laurent Fignon set a pace that few could follow. One by one the favorites fell off the group. Delgado was riding aggressively in the second group and was slowly increasing a 1'30” lead over a fading Roche. The Irishman's chance for overall victory was slipping away.

When time checks were relayed to Roche, the determined Irishman pushed himself to his physical limit and began to fight back. Fignon crossed the finish line first, just ahead of Anselmo Fuente (Spa). Delgado pushed toward the finish to maximize his time gain on Roche. The clock was moving quickly when through the mist and fog that covered the top of the mountain appeared an inspired Roche. Irish fans cheered wildly as Roche crossed the finish line only 14 second behind Delgado. Exhausted from the effort, Roche collapsed and needed medical attention and oxygen to recover. His chance for the overall was preserved, but the question remained “could he recover in time for the next day's 5-climb stage?”

Stage 22 from La Plagne to Morzine featured three category 1 climbs, a category 2 climb and a finishing climb on the Hors Categorie Joux-Plane. This was the final climbing opportunity for race leader Pedro Delgado to gain significant time on second placed Stephen Roche. Roche trailed Delgado by only 39 seconds and confidently rode beside the Maillot Jaune throughout the stage. When the final climb began, Delgado launched several aggressive attacks. Roche answered both moves easily and launched his own attack in the closing kilometers. At the finish, Roche gained 18 second on Delgado and closed the time gap to 21 seconds. Delgado's lead was tenuous with three stages remaining to the finish in Paris .

The final test for the riders was the 38 km ITT in Dijon . Stephen Roche, winner of the first ITT back on stage 10, needed an extraordinary effort to pass race leader Delgado. The tired Irishman rode at maximum effort and finished the stage second to Jean-Francois Bernard. Delgado finished in seventh place but lost 1'01” to Roche. The race lead and the Maillot Jaune belonged to the inspired Irishman.

Roche rode into Paris on the final stage to claim the grand Tour de France victory by the third closest winning margin in Tour history, 40 seconds. Stephen Roche joined the elite group of Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, and Bernard Hinault as winners of the Giro/Tour double in the same year. Later in 1987 the talented Irishman continued his stellar year by winning the World Championship Road Race in Villach , Austria . Eddy Merckx in 1974 was the only other rider to accomplish the Giro-Tour-WC triple in the same year.

TdF 1987 Recap

Stage and Distance

Stage Winner

Race Leader

Prologue West Berlin (Ger), 6.1 km ITT

Jelle Nijdam (Hol)

Jelle Nijdam (Hol)

Stage 1 West Berlin (Ger)- West Berlin (Ger), 106 km

Nico Verhoeven ((Hol)

Lech Piasecki (Pol)

Stage 3 Karlsruhe (Ger)- Stuttgart (Ger), 219 km

Acacio Da Silva (Por)

Erich Maechler (Sui)

Stage 4 Stuttgart (Ger)- Pforzheim (Ger), 79 km

Herman Frison (Bel)

Erich Maechler (Sui)

Stage 5 Pforzheim (Ger)- Strasbourg , 112 km

Marc Sergeant (Bel)

Erich Maechler (Sui)

Stage 6 Strasbourg-Epinal, 179 km

Christophe Lavainne (Fra)

Erich Maechler (Sui)

Stage 7 Epinal-Troyes, 211 km

Manuel-Jorge Dominguez (Spa)

Erich Maechler (Sui)

Stage 8 Troyes-Epinay Sous Senart, 206 km

Jean-Paul Van Poppel (Hol)

Erich Maechler (Sui)

Stage 9 OrleanS-Renaze, 260 km

Adri Van der Poel (Hol)

Erich Maechler (Sui)

Stage 10 Saumur-Futuroscope, 87 km ITT

Stephen Roche (Ire)

Charly Mottet (Fra)

Stage 11 Poitiers-Chaumeil, 255 km

Martial Gayant (Fra)

Martial Gayant (Fra)

Stage 12 Brive-Bordeaux, 228 km

Davis Phinney ( USA )

Martial Gayant (Fra)

Stage 13 Bayonne-Pau, 219 km

Erik Breukink (Hol)

Charly Mottet (Fra)

Stage 14 Pau-Luz Ardiden, 166 km

Dag-Otto Lauritzen (Nor)

Charly Mottet (Fra)

Stage 15 Tarbes-Blagnac, 164 km

Rolf Golz (Ger)

Charly Mottet (Fra)

Stage 16 Blagnac-Millau/Le Cade, 216 km

Regis Clere (Fra)

Charly Mottet (Fra)

Stage 17 Millau-Avignon, 239 km

Jean-Paul Van Poppel (Hol)

Charly Mottet (Fra)

Stage 18 Carpentras-Bedoin/Mont Ventoux, 37 km ITT

Jean-Francois Bernard (Fra)

Jean Bernard (Fra)

Stage 19 Valreas-Villard de Lans, 185 km

Pedro Delgado (Spa)

Stephen Roche (Ire)

Stage 20 Villard de Lans-Alpe d'Huez, 201 km

Federico Echave (Spa)

Pedro Delgado (Spa)

Stage 21 Bourg d'Oisans-La Plagne, 185 km

Laurent Fignon (Fra)

Pedro Delgado (Spa)

Stage 22 La Plagne-Morzine, 186 km

Eduardo Chozas (Spa)

Pedro Delgado (Spa)

Stage 23 St Julien en Genevois-Dijon, 224 km

Regis Clere (Fra)

Pedro Delgado (Spa)

Stage 24 Dijon-Dijon, 38 km ITT

Jean-Francois Bernard (Fra)

Stephen Roche (Ire)

Stage 25 Creteil-Paris/Champs Elysees, 192 km

Jeff Pierce ( USA )

Stephen Roche (Ire)


Start List: 207

Finishers: 135

Distance: 4,240 km

Average Speed: 36.645 km/h

 

Special Note 2: The start list was again expanded and included 207 riders from a record setting 23 trade teams.

Special Note 3: History was made on the stage 1 circuit race. Lech Piasecki (Pol), second in the prologue, finished in a small breakaway and gained 23 seconds on the chasing peloton and took the race lead. He became the first Eastern Block rider to wear the Maillot Jaune. He did not hold the Jersey for long, but his achievement marked an influx of former amateur riders from communist countries of Eastern Europe .

 

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