For the 1987 Giro d’Italia, the organisers announced that the riders would face three time-trials in the opening four days – a 4-kilometre prologue in San Remo, a 43-kilometre team time-trial on day four, and sandwiched in between was a rather unusual test – an 8-kilometre descent of the Poggio – the famous climb from Milan-San Remo.
The opening prologue along the seafront at San Remo was won by Roberto Visentini. The winner of the previous year’s Giro narrowly beat Steve Bauer to take the first pink jersey of the race.
The following morning, Erik Breukink broke clear to win a short road stage of just 31 kilometres, beating his nearest competitor Phil Anderson by 16″. That afternoon, the riders would tackle the descent of the Poggio.
The surface of the Poggio was considerably rougher back then than it is now and Roche was not happy with the inclusion of the stage.
“Three riders have been killed this year,” he told journalists. “It seems like they are looking for a fourth.”
Unlike most of the other favourites, Roche elected to use a normal road bike rather than a time-trial bike and the decision paid off. He beat Polish rider Lech Piasecki by three seconds with Erik Breukink a further three seconds back. The Dutch rider hung onto pink with Roche moving into second.
Roche would take the overall lead after the third stage before losing it to team-mate Visentini with Roche taking it again on Stage 15, this time for good.