Tuesday 12 December 2017

Cycling mums and dads will inspire a new generation of champs says Roche

Northern Ireland Tourism Minister Arlene Foster, is pictured with Stephen Roche
Northern Ireland Tourism Minister Arlene Foster, is pictured with Stephen Roche
Jerome Reilly

Jerome Reilly

The Bike to Work scheme which has lured tens of thousands of employees to take up cycling will produce a new generation of champions, according to former great Stephen Roche.

Earlier this week, the Government gave the Bike to Work scheme the green light to continue, with those who bought bikes during the first year of operation becoming eligible to buy a new one this year.

But Roche, who was yesterday inducted into the Giro d'Italia Hall of Fame, believes the real legacy will be in the years to come.

"You have all these mams and dads who have got bikes in the last few years. Now you see them out on Sundays doing decent long rides.

"They will begin encouraging their kids to get on the bikes as a sport and point them in that direction rather than say, soccer or rugby. In the years to come, we will have champions who can be traced back to the Bike to Work Scheme," he said.

It's now 27 years since Roche's all conquering period in cycling.

In a remarkable few months in 1987, he won the triple crown of professional cycling: the Giro d'Italia, pictured above, the Tour De France and the World Road Race championships.

That astonishing triumph by the Dubliner was recalled yesterday when he was inducted into the Giro d'Italia Hall of Fame at a special ceremony in the shadow of the Giant's Causeway.

The ceremony attended by the world cycling press, including a large contingent from Italy, ahead of the Giro coming into Ireland between May 9 and 11.

The Grand Partenza or "Big Start" will take in three stages around Belfast, the Giant's Causeway coast and finally Armagh to Dublin, with an expected sprint finish in the capital's Merrion Square.

This year's Irish start has a special resonance for Roche. His son, Irish independent and Independent.ie diarist Nicolas Roche will be riding for the Maglia Rosa, as well as his nephew Dan Martin.

Roche says the Giro victory (left) was a highlight of his career. "I made friends that remain with me to this day. To receive the Hall of Fame is very touching."

Alan Clarke, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, said 775 million people will watch the Big Start in Ireland. "We want this to showcase the very best this country has to offer," he said.

Roche said the people of Northern Ireland had embraced the Giro's arrival on these shores. I think when people in the Republic see the start in Belfast the excitement will build," he said.

Irish Independent

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