Former Tour de France winner Stephen Roche gives his reaction to the first stage of the Tour de France which began in Ireland.

The 85th edition of the Tour de France started in Ireland with the first stage held in counties Dublin and Wicklow. First across the finishing line in the Phoenix Park was Tom Steels from Belgium.

1987 Tour de France winner Stephen Roche was both delighted and nostalgic to see stage one of the Tour in the Wicklow Gap, one of the roads he trained on as a young cyclist. When he was training he never imagined the Tour would be there in the future.

While the rain stayed away the Wicklow Gap was windy. Perhaps not as gruelling as cycling in the Pyrenees or The Alps bur Stephen Roche believes this stage will have taken a toll. Many of the cyclists will have sore legs as they are not used to the cold. Other riders will be sore because it was actually a hard stage.

I’m delighted to say the stage went very well apart from the crash unfortunately in the final few miles.

The crash took out Italian Mario Cipollini, one of the favourites and the only contender for taking the yellow jersey off British cyclist Chris Boardman. However, Roche believes Boardman deserves to start stage two in yellow as he and his GAN teammates defended well.

In the second stage from Enniscorthy in County Wexford to Cork, Roche anticipates the winds going towards Dungarvan in County Waterford and Youghal in County Cork will not make it easy for the cyclists. He expects some sprints at the finish and depending on how well Cipollini recovers, he will be in there too.

There was an overwhelming show of support from spectators at the first stage of the Tour. Going through County Waterford where Irish cyclist Sean Kelly county hails from, Roche expects more fervent support from the crowds. Irish people have embraced the Tour to the degree that Roche almost believes he is in France.

Possibly even better here because of it being the first time its coming here, everyone's got so enthusiastic and want to show off their own little town to the 900 and odd million television viewers that cold be watching this stage.

This episode of ‘Sunday Sport’ was broadcast on 12 July 1998. The reporter is Roy Willoughby.