Number 2 was Hinault
Hinault – LeMond … You know THAT stage. There are so many pictures of that day and yet, I’ve had no trouble picking this one. I came across it a few years ago in a random book about the “Tour de France finest hours” or something like that. It did strike me because I had never seen it before and that, in itself, is quite astonishing for I have collected those kinds of things for a long time now.
I like this picture because it gives another point of view on that stage. We are so used to seeing Greg and Bernard arriving together, no rush, all smiles, their opponents (or may I say “opponent” as Urs Zimmermann must have felt very lonely on that very day) being lost a handful of minutes back … It almost seems easy. I said almost.
This picture shows both riders in the valley leading to Bourg d’Oisans, at the foot of the mountain. They’re fast, and they’re clearly not smiling. They give everything they have because they know it IS the big break. The one from which no adversary will ever come back. Now it’s just them, they’ve set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd. But was there ever any doubt they eventually would ?
What do we see on that picture ?
Apart from the 2 best riders of the 80’s, you mean ? We see a typical 80’s jersey, worn by the badger. It the “combiné” jersey, which existed from 1985 to 1989. It was supposed to be a classification taking into account all the other classifications : yellow, green, polka dot jerseys, as well as the now extinct red jersey. Greg LeMond won that jersey twice, in 1985 & 1986. In fact, on that particular day he was already in the lead of that classification but as he was already wearing the yellow jersey, number 2 on that classification was asked to wear it. Number 2 was Hinault.
It almost seems like those 2 riders are not even from the same team, except for… their bikes. These are the first ever carbon frames to have made it to the Tour. They were made by TVT and labelled as “Look” bikes although at the time they weren’t.
Greg LeMond is wearing a pair of world champion gloves. An habit he kept from 1984 (when he was wearing his first WC jersey) to 1989 (when he won his last WC title, he was actually wearing such gloves when he crossed the line in Chambéry). Unfortunately, these have become increasingly difficult to find for the collector. If you find a pair, send me a message.
By 1986, this is also the end of wool jerseys. In 1987, Stephen Roche would be the last rider to win the Tour in a wool jersey. As good as they looked and felt, these jersey were not too good when it came to printing a sponsor logo overnight. Through the years, there has been multiple examples of such logos falling off during the race. Here, you can see the “Toshiba” logo on the side being ripped off. Not very professional, is it ? Nor is the fact that someone forgot to iron the Coq Sportif logos on Hinault’s shoulders. There, I said it. The badger’s jersey looks like crap. If you happen to find it, spare yourself the trouble of keeping such an atrocity and send it to me 😉
What don’t we see on the picture ?
Bernard Tapie, of course. Owner of the La Vie Claire team, he had the responsibility to have one of his riders to win. Results are impressive : the team achieved places 1 (LeMond), 2 (Hinault) and 4 (Hampsten) on the general classification of the 1986 Tour de France. But these results hide the story. For most of the race, Bernard Tapie wasn’t sure of how he could handle his riders. Having LeMond to win was interesting to penetrate the US market with Look products, whereas a 6th win for Hinault would have set a new record for that race. Both options were interesting. So when Hinault took the initiative by attacking first, he did let things go. When LeMond made a spectacular come back and eventually took the yellow jersey, he did let things go. So what happened at the foot of the Alpe d’Huez climb, when it became clear that the victory would be either Greg or Bernard’s ?
Well… Nothing really happened. They both neutralized each other. You have to understand it was a win-win situation : by taking the lead in the ascent, Hinault would prove the world he was the front man of the Tour, if not the yellow jersey. He was passing on the torch to his teammate. And by doing so, he built an illusion of control. “If I would, I could…”. By letting Hinault take the lead in the climb, LeMond was winning the Tour and the hearts of the crowd. At that time, the LeMond camp was getting paranoid about having someone poison Greg or punch him on the side of the road. Bernard was now a bodyguard. And an efficient one. Greg simply didn’t need to destroy the Badger to prove his point. He was already comfortably in the yellow jersey.
Many people seem to see this stage as the 1st step into a new “cycling-business”, where economics prevail instead of sport. That’s 100% bullshit. They fail to realize that both Hinault and LeMond, on that particular moment, had made a conscious choice, and were enjoying it. Their smiles are not fake, they’re spontaneous, believe it or not.
For the past 3 decades, both riders have been discussing that stage. And they have evolved. At first both felt the need to convince people both of them were superior and could have destroyed the other. It’s only very recently that they acknowledged it had been a good fight, and the best had won. In 1986, that was Greg LeMond. Number 2 was Hinault.
By Nicolas – NL_LeMondFans