>Those were the days: LeMond, Hinault, Fignon, and my introduction to the great race.

>So the Tour de France is on! Yes!

I love the Tour, it’s one of the greatest sporting events anywhere. It is a crazy festival of sport and speculation. The Tour has been racked by doping the last few years, which is unfortunate. I suppose doping has been a part of processional cycling for decades, but nothing like it’s been that last ten years.

I became a fan of the Tour, however, in the 1980s when Greg LeMond was the great American hopeful and doping was a minor issue. LeMond, the first American to even win a tour de France, eventually won three Tours.

The 1986 Tour de France was LeMond’s first win. Here LeMond races with his teammate Bernard Hinault (five-time winner of the Tour and one of my cycling heroes) up the infamous Alpe d’Huez:

Hinault had set an almost suicidal pace and only Lemond could stay with him. They crossed the line together hand-in-hand. LeMond let Hinault cross the line slightly ahead of him, so Hinault was credited with the stage win. But there was a lot of tension between LeMond and Hinault, which played itself out in the French newspapers. Hinault had apparently said he would help LeMond win that year, but then he raced like he was going to win himself. LeMond whined. I always appreciated how great a cyclist LeMond was, but I thought he carried too much of a victim complex around with him. Regardless, I was hooked. Cycling was the bomb.

Then LeMond was in a hunting accident. He was shot by a shotgun fired by his brother-in-law. He almost didn’t make it and his recovery took a long time. He still has pellets in his body. He came back and won Tour again in 1989, and again in 1990. To me that’s nearly as remarkable as Armstrong’s victories after fighting cancer.

That 1989 Tour had the closest finish in Tour history. Laurent Fignon, the great French cyclist, was ahead of Lemond by only 50 seconds going into the last day of the Tour. That day the race organizers decided it would be an individual time trial rather than the typical group finish. Here is that finish:

LeMond won the Tour by only 8 seconds! That’s after 22 days of racing. Never again has the Tour finished with a time trial.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under bicycling, sports

3 responses to “>Those were the days: LeMond, Hinault, Fignon, and my introduction to the great race.

  1. >I like Team Highroad and Garmin-Chipotle this year, mostly because of my ethnocentric Americanism and a cursory nod to being dope-free. I don’t think Garmin-Chipotle’s really got much of a chance to do well, but I’ve always liked argyle.I also like the Basque team’s orange jerseys. I can’t remember their name.Nice clip of LeMond and Hinault. Take Back the Tour!

  2. >Well… after today’s stage Garmin Chipotle has two riders near the top, so we’ll see.Columbia also has a rider near the top, and they have Hincapie, with all his experience, leading the team.It’s great to see two US teams in the race.EUSKALTEL is the orange team from Spain. They’ve been around for a long time.Could be a good tour this year.

  3. >I think it is a good tour. I like not having an overwhelming favorite (though Evans looks good).Regarding the doping issue: I’d picked up a guide to this year’s Tour which featured an article on Charly Gaul (’58). There was a brief mention of his taking amphetamines while riding, which seemed to be notable mostly because he was so outspoken about how widespread their use was on the Tours he rode.The more things change…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s