The Orwell Wheeler

Stephen Roche Image Name: Stephen Roche
It brings people to the very outer limits of their physical and mental capacity. The cycling calendar contains many races but three tower over all of the others. The first is May’s Giro d’Italia-three weeks through the most challenging terrain Italy has to offer. July sees the Tour De France, cycling’s toughest test through the torture chambers of the Alps and Pyrenees. Finally, September brings the World Championships a single six and a half hour race to see who will spend the following year wearing the rainbow jersey of champion of the world.

To win any one of these races is to enter sporting history, to win all three in the same season was thought unattainable until the legendary Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx achieved it in 1974. Many believed it was a feat could never be repeated. But it was, on a cold September day in Austria in 1987, by a maintenance fitter from Dundrum in South Dublin who hailed from a small cycling club called Orwell Wheelers. His name, Stephen Roche.

The night before he left Ireland to seek his fortune in the tough world of continental cycling, a family friend said to Roche that everybody expected him to go once around the Eiffel Tower and come home. He made him promise not to return. Roche eventually did, but as the world’s number one cyclist.

Narrated by Donal O’Herlihy