(The not so bright life)
July 16, 1985. The 17th stage is about to start on television. The peloton goes from Toulouse to Luz Ardiden for a tough stage in the Pyrenées. The sun is shining outside but I’m watching television. The race hasn’t started yet. A waiting screen is showing a clock and the expected time of broadcasting. Time is ticking away.
15:00 PM. Still no live images. The screen now shows an expected time of 15:15. What’s going on ? Are the riders delayed ? I decide to switch the channel to Antenne 2, the French television. They’re on air. But what I see is no riders. I just see an image of the top of the Tourmalet and a lot of fog. Oh my god … no helicopters in the air, no live images. This can’t be true.
In the meantime the Belgian television has also started their live coverage. But I decide to stay on the French one because they have live contact with the reporters on the motorbike. All I see are headlights of motorbikes and cars. Suddenly. What is that shade ? A ghost ? No, it’s Cabestany riding over the top in the fog leading the race. His teammate Delgado is just 1:20 behind him. A group with Roche, Chozas, Parra and LeMond are reaching the summit at 2:00. But where is the yellow jersey ? Hinault is left behind. He’s following at 3:18 with 2 black eyes, a broken nose and a stitched head. The result of his crash 2 days ago in St-Etienne.
I’m getting nervous here. LeMond, 2nd in the overall classification at 3:38 from Hinault, is taking back time on Hinault who is seriously in trouble. I start switching channels to get information.
In the valley the images are better. There he is. The man in the combiné jersey. But today he’s looking sad. His face is not showing the big smile and blue eyes, but all we see is a man who’s riding like he’s somewhere else in his mind.
Paul Koechli, team manager of La Vie Claire, is driving alongside Hinault who’s getting some help of his team mate Ruttiman. The window open and shouting loud to encourage his leader. A few minutes up ahead Maurice Le Guilloux, driving in the other car of the team, is with Greg. “Stay with Roche” he yells at Greg, who wants to get information about Hinault. “He’s within 1 minute and coming back. Stay with Roche and slow him down.”
Slow him down ? Why ? Roche is 3 minutes behind on LeMond in the overall classification. That means more than 6 minutes on Hinault. He’s not a threat. And what about saying Hinault is coming back. That’s not true ! He’s at more than 1:30 and suffering. Why don’t you tell him the truth ?
The riders are starting the final climb to Luz Ardiden. The fog has returned and the images become more and more interfered. Oh no, not again. I’m trying as hard I can to follow the race but it’s difficult due to the bad weather conditions. The live images are too often replaced by a steady shot of the finish where the reporters are working hard to give update information.
News from the background. Hinault is in deep trouble. He’s losing more time on Roche and LeMond.
Come on. Now it’s time to get rid of Roche and get Delgado back. But nothing changes. Roche is even slowing down and getting tired. Come on Greg, go for it. This is your chance winning the Tour de France. Get it.
But instead of an attack I see the polka dot jersey returning. Herrera, the Colombian mountain goat, is looking at Roche. Maybe this can change things. Herrera is taking the lead and attacks. Yes ! Follow him Greg ! Come on. You can. Nooo ! Greg is loyal to the team orders and stays with Roche. Herrera is slowly disappearing in the fog.
Still no new orders given by Maurice Le Guilloux. Damn ! Do something.
I see Greg looking over his shoulder, trying to see where Hinault is. I know Hinault is far behind but Greg doesn’t. Le Guilloux keeps telling him to stay with Roche. “Hinault is coming”. Those are moments when you want to throw something to the television but your mind says “Don’t do it. Your parents will get mad”. Give me live images, tell Greg the thruth, … . Aarrgh.
It even gets worse when Parra, the other Colombian, attacks. Again no reaction of Greg. I know it’s over now. He just can’t do what he wants and can do. Attack and win this Tour.
Roche is slowing down. Hinault is getting some time back, but not much. And Greg … still in his wheels, looking to the ground.
All I see now are headlights, fog and a banner above the finishline. There’s nothing more to see. I switch back to Antenne 2. A reporter on the motorbike tells Hinault is following at 1:30 of LeMond and Herrera is almost catching up on Delgado. If feel sad.
Finally some movement at the finish. The camera finds Delgado in the last 500m of the race. The Spanish rider crosses the finish and wins the stage. Only 25 seconds later Herrera finishes second. 25 seconds ? What if Greg had followed him ? This is unbelievable. A chance of winning this stage and maybe this Tour is missed.
The only thing I’m watching now is that little yellow clock at the bottom of the screen. 1:27, 1:28, 1:29 … there’s Parra. I get more and more frustrated. Cameras are trying to zoom on the parts where there’s less fog, but nothing to see.
Is that Hinault ? I see a yellow color in the fog. Has he returned on Greg ? My heart is beating faster. Whew. It’s Greg finishing 2:52 after Delgado in a group with Kelly and Roche. Apparently a lot of riders returned to Greg and Roche. But no Hinault. Where is he ?
The reporter raises his voice when a yellow shade is seen on the camera. 3:30, 3:45, 4:00, … Hinault finishes at 4:05 of Delgado and 3:40 behind Herrera. I blink my eyes and make a quick calculation. Yes, this is a missed chance.
Chaos at the finish. I see reporters tyring to interview Greg. He’s furious and emotional. He’s talking to Koechli, wondering what those tactics and lies were all about. The camera is sent away.
The Eurovision signal appears on the screen. The show is over. But I still have so many questions to be answered.
The next day I read the story again in the newspaper. It’s hard to find comments of Greg. Only some pictures and a tiny interview with those 4 words. “They lied to me”.
Watch the story here.
By Thierry – TM_LeMondFans