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Bernard Hinault

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Bernard Hinault
Color photograph of Hinault, looking to the left, wearing glasses
Personal information
Full nameBernard Hinault
NicknameLe Patron (The Boss)
Le Blaireau (The Badger)
Born (1954-11-14) November 14, 1954 (age 64)
Yffiniac, France
Height1.74 m (5 ft 8 12 in)
Weight62 kg (137 lb; 9 st 11 lb)
Team information
Current teamRetired
DisciplineRoad
RoleRider
Rider typeAll-rounder
Professional team(s)
1975–1977Gitane–Campagnolo
1978–1983Renault–Gitane–Campagnolo
1984–1986La Vie Claire
Major wins
Grand Tours
Tour de France
General classification (1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985)
Points classification (1979)
Mountains classification (1986)
Combativity classification (1981, 1984, 1986)
Combination classification (1981, 1982)
28 individual stages (1978–1986)
Giro d'Italia
General classification (1980, 1982, 1985)
7 individual stages (1980, 1982, 1985)
Vuelta a España
General classification (1978, 1983)
7 individual stages (1978, 1983)

Stage races

Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré (1977, 1979, 1981)
Tour de Romandie (1980)

One-day races and Classics

World Road Race Championships (1980)
National Road Race Championships (1978)
Liège–Bastogne–Liège (1977, 1980)
Giro di Lombardia (1979, 1984)
Paris–Roubaix (1981)
La Flèche Wallonne (1979, 1983)
Gent–Wevelgem (1977)
Amstel Gold Race (1981)
Grand Prix des Nations (1977, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1984)

Other

Super Prestige Pernod International (1979–1982)

Bernard Hinault (pronounced [bɛʁ.naʁ i.no]; born 14 November 1954) is a French former professional cyclist. With a large number of victories, including five in the Tour de France, he is often named among the greatest cyclists of all time.

Hinault started cycling as an amateur in his native Brittany. His amateur career was extremely successful and he signed with the Gitane–Campagnolo team to turn professional in 1975. Entering smaller races during his first two seasons, he took breakthrough victories at both the Liège–Bastogne–Liège classic and the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré stage race in 1977. In 1978, he won his first two Grand Tours, the Vuelta a España and the Tour de France. In the following years, he was the most successful professional cyclist, adding another Tour victory in 1979 and a win at the 1980 Giro d'Italia. A knee injury forced him to quit the 1980 Tour de France while in the lead, but he returned to win the World Championship road race later in the year. He added another Tour victory in 1981, before completing his first Giro–Tour double in 1982.

After winning the 1983 Vuelta a España, a return of his knee problems forced him to miss the Tour de France, won by his teammate Laurent Fignon. Tensions within the Renault team led to his departure and he joined La Vie Claire. With his new team, he raced the 1984 Tour de France, being comprehensively beaten by Fignon. He recovered the following year, winning another Giro–Tour double with the help of teammate Greg LeMond. In the 1986 Tour de France, he engaged in an inter-team rivalry with LeMond, who won his first of three Tours. Hinault retired shortly thereafter. He remains the most recent French winner of the Tour de France. After his cycling career, Hinault turned to farming, while fulfilling representative duties for the organisers of the Tour de France, a position he held until 2016.

Throughout his career, Hinault was known by the nickname le blaireau, a term translated in English as "badger", while the original French can also mean "shaving brush". He associated himself with the animal on the grounds of its aggressive nature, a trait he embodied on the bike. Within the cycling field, Hinault filled the role of patron, meaning that he exercised authority over races that he took part in.

Early life and family[edit]

Hinault was born on 14 November 1954 in the Breton village of Yffiniac to Joseph and Lucie Hinault. Bernard was the second oldest of four children. The family lived on a cottage named La Clôture, built shortly after Hinault was born. His parents were farmers and the children often had to help out during harvest time.[1] His father later worked as a platelayer for the national rail company SNCF.[2] Hinault was described as a "hyperactive" child, with his mother nicknaming him "little hooligan".[1] Hinault was not a good student, but visited the technical college in Saint-Brieuc for an engineering apprenticeship. It was here that he started athletics, becoming a runner and finishing tenth in the French junior cross-country championship in 1971.[3]

In December 1974, just before turning professional, Hinault married Martine, who he had met at a family wedding the year before.[4] Their first son, Mickael, was born in 1975,[5] with a second, Alexandre, in 1981.[6] Hinault and his family lived in Quessoy, close to Yffiniac, while he was a professional. After his retirement, they moved to a farm 64 km (40 mi) away in Brittany.[7] Hinault had bought the 48 ha (120 acres) property near Calorguen in 1983.[8] Martine would later serve as mayor of Calorguen.[9]

Amateur career[edit]

"It seemed natural to him that he had won."
Hinault's mother Lucie speaking about his reaction after his first race.[10]

Hinault came to cycling through his cousin René, who rode weekend races. At first, he had to use the shared family bike which he rode devotedly. He received his own bike when he was 15, as a reward for passing his school examinations and used it for his trips to college. During the summer of 1971, he made training rides with René, who was a second-class amateur and had problems keeping up with the sixteen-year old. Hinault received his racing licence from Club Olympique Briochin in late April 1971 and entered his first race on 2 May in Planguenoual. Advised to try to stay with the other riders, Hinault won the event.[11] Hinault would go on to win his first five races, amassing twelve wins from twenty races by the end of the year.[10] Also during the summer of 1971, Hinault was at odds with his father about his choice to pursue cycling as a career. Joseph Hinault only relented after his son ran away from home for three days to stay with his cousins, sleeping between straw in the barn.[12]

For 1972, Hinault was allowed to race with the over-18s. At a race in Hillion, he and René escaped from the field to take a dominant victory, shared as they crossed the finish line together, to the dismay of the race organisers.[13] The young Hinault was heavily influenced by his trainer at the Club Olympique Briochin, Robert Le Roux, who had earlier worked with 1965 World Champion Tom Simpson.[14] Hinault won nineteen races in his second season as an amateur, including the national junior championship against opposition a year older than him, such as future professional Bernard Vallet.[15][16] He was conscripted into the military at age 18, and did not race thoroughout 1973. He was unable to join the army's training centre for young athletes and instead served in Sissonne with the 21st Marine Infantry Regiment.[16] Returning to competition overweight, Hinault still managed to win his first race of 1974. This was his last season as an amateur and again highly successful, including a victory in his hometown of Yffiniac towards the end of the year, where an alliance formed by four other riders was unable to hold him back. He also competed in track cycling, winning the national pursuit championship.[17] On the road, he took part in the Étoile des Espoirs, a race open to amateurs and young professionals. Hinault finished fifth overall, and second on the time trial stage behind reigning pursuit world champion Roy Schuiten. Towards the end of the season, Hinault turned down an offer to race with the prestigious Athletic Club de Boulogne-Billancourt, instead deciding to turn professional in 1975.[18]

Professional career[edit]

1975–1977: Gitane[edit]

In January 1975, Hinault turned professional with the Gitane–Campagnolo team, run by former World Champion Jean Stablinski, on a lean wage of 2,500 francs per month. The decision to turn professional relatively early was in part taken due to the fact that, had Hinault raced the 1975 season as an amateur, he would have likely been prevented from turning professional before the 1976 Summer Olympics in order to be part of the French team there.[19] Early on, he showed no interest in adhering to the unwritten rules of the field (peloton), in which younger riders had to show respect towards older ones. At a criterium race in August 1975, he went up against a coalition of senior riders, who had decided to divide the prize money between them. Hinault won all of the intermediate cash prizes until five-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx declared that Hinault was included in the pact.[20] His results in his first season were impressive, with a seventh place at Paris–Nice and a victory at the Circuit de la Sarthe, earning him the Promotion Pernod, the prize for the best new professional in France.[21] However, Hinault showed little willingness to learn the basic trades of cycling from Stablinski, often escaping early in the race instead of learning how to ride inside the peloton. This and the fact that Stablinski put Hinault into too many races led to conflicts between the two.[22]

For 1976, Hinault stayed with Gitane, as former professional Cyrille Guimard, who had just retired from cycling, took over the team and became directeur sportif. Guimard and Hinault got along well, and the latter was kept out of the high-profile races for 1976, instead focussing on a steady improvement in lesser known races such as Paris–Camembert, which he won. That year, Guimard spurred Lucien Van Impe to his only win in the Tour de France.[23] Hinault's progress was visible, with a second consecutive victory at the Circuit de la Sarthe, a third place at the Grand Prix du Midi Libre and a win at the Tour de l'Aude, ensuring him the Prestige Pernod, the award for the best French rider of the season.[24] In total, Hinault won 15 races in 1976. At the end of the year, he came sixth at the World Championship Road Race being beaten to the line for fifth by Eddy Merckx.[25]

During the spring classics season of 1977, Hinault left the Tour of Flanders before it had even started, drawing him a formal warning by Guimard for his conduct. Just three weeks later, Hinault won Gent–Wevelgem in a solo effort after an attack 30 km (19 mi) from the finish.[26] Five days later, at Liège–Bastogne–Liège, Hinault followed an attack by favourite André Dierickx and beat him in the two-man sprint to take his first victory in one of cycling's "monuments".[27] In accordance with Guimard's plan to build Hinault up slowly, he did not enter the 1977 Tour de France. He did however start the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, seen as the most important preparation event for the Tour. While in the leader's jersey on the penultimate stage to Grenoble, Hinault attacked up the Col de Porte, leading Van Impe and Bernard Thévenet by 1:30 minutes when crossing the summit. On the descent, he misjudged a hairpin corner and crashed down the mountainside. A tree saved him from falling far down, while his bike was lost. Hinault then climbed back onto the road, took a new bike and without showing any hesitation, continued on. Up the finishing climb in Grenoble, he briefly dismounted, still shocked from the near-death experience and pushed his bike for about 20 m (22 yd), before remounting and winning the stage eighty seconds ahead of Van Impe. This also secured him the overall victory ahead of eventual Tour winner Thévenet.[28] At the end of the season, Hinault won the Grand Prix des Nations, an individual time trial, with a "colossal margin" of 3:15 minutes ahead of favourite Joop Zoetemelk.[29]

1978–1983: Renault[edit]

1978: Grand Tour breakthrough[edit]

Black-and-white photo of Hinault in a cycling jersey, smiling and lifting his right arm in the air
Hinault at the 1978 Tour de France

At the beginning of 1978, the Gitane team was taken over by its parent company, the state-owned car manufacturer Renault, becoming Renault–Gitane–Campagnolo.[30] Hinault started the season with second place at Paris–Nice. He then competed in the Critérium National de la Route. Trailing Raymond Martin by more than two minutes before the final 22 km (14 mi) time trial, he made up his significant deficit and won the event.[31]

Hinault then competed in his first ever three-week Grand Tour, at the 1978 Vuelta a España, then held at the end of April. He won the opening prologue time trial in Gijón, but then let the leadership switch to Ferdi Van den Haute. He won stage 11b, a mountain time trial in Barcelona and regained the race lead the next day, when he won the stage to La Tossa de Montbui after an escape with teammate Jean-René Bernaudeau. He ensured his overall victory by winning stage 18 to Amurrio. On that stage, he bridged over to escapee Andrés Gandarias, who had earlier asked for Hinault's permission to attack. Hinault claimed to have been annoyed into attacking by one of Gandarias' teammates and offered to carry him to the finish. However, the Spaniard was unable to follow his wheel, saying: "This guy has made me suffer like a dog, he's tougher than Eddy Merckx!"[32] In all, Hinault won five stages of the Vuelta. A sixth win was prevented on the final day of the Tour: A short time trial was raced in the afternoon, held at San Sebastián in the Basque Country. The stage was marred by protests and obstructions by supporters of the Basque separatist group ETA. Hinault himself had sand thrown into his eyes, but won the stage nonetheless, only to find that the results would not count due to the surrounding circumstances.[33][a]

Ahead of his first Tour de France, Hinault raced in the 1978 Tour de Suisse, where he did not feature prominently. He then travelled to the French Road Race Championship, held at Sarrebourg. He launched an escape, on which he rode 55 km (34 mi) solo, leading the rest of his competitors by more than six minutes by the start of the last lap. However, he had forgotten to eat enough and suffered from hypoglycaemia during the last part of the race, crossing the finish line to take the title in "a state of obvious distress". His victory allowed him to wear the French tricolore for the following year.[35]

"He marched forward like Napoleon. He took all the responsibility, stood in the front line, was spat at by the crowd."
Fellow rider Paul Sherwen describing Hinault's role in the riders' strike at Valence-d'Agen during the 1978 Tour de France.[36]

In the 1978 Tour de France, Hinault fell behind early to challenger Zoetemelk when Renault lost two minutes to Mercier during the team time trial. On stage 8, the first longer individual time trial, Hinault gained back 59 seconds on Zoetemelk, while the previous two Tour winners, Van Impe and Thévenet, lost so much time that they were now counted out from chances of an overall win.[37] Hinault rode conservatively in the Pyrenees to stay within striking distance of Zoetemelk.[38] On stage 12a, from Tarbes to Valence-d'Agen, he firmly imprinted his authority on the race, although not by riding. The riders had been complaining about split stages, where more than one would be held on one day, as was the case on 12 July. When they reached the finishing town, they dismounted their bikes and walked to the finish line in protest. Hinault was chosen by his fellow competitors to be the spokesperson of the strike. Journalist Felix Magowan wrote: "Before today's strike, people were asking if the Tour had a boss. Today that was answered. His name is Hinault."[39] Following the strike, Hinault had trouble sleeping and was caught out the next day, a stage in the Massif Central, forcing his team into a long chase. Thus weakened and slowed by spectator interference at a bike change, he lost 1:40 minutes to Zoetemelk on the following day's uphill time trial.[40] Hinault countered the next day en route to Saint-Étienne, breaking away with Hennie Kuiper. By the finish, the two had been reeled back, but Hinault contested the finishing sprint, winning the stage. The following day, stage 16 to Alpe d'Huez, ended with Zoetemelk, Hinault and the temporary yellow jersey wearer Michel Pollentier separated by only 18 seconds. That was, until Pollentier was caught trying to defraud his doping test and was disqualified, leaving Hinault and Zoetemelk to fight out the overall victory. On the final mountain stage, Hinault put his rival under pressure, but was unable to make up any time. He then clinched the race leader's yellow jersey in the final time trial, gaining more than four minutes to win his first Tour de France with an advantage of 3:56 minutes.[41] Following his Tour win, he finished fifth at the World Championships, before once more winning the Grand Prix des Nations, this time ahead of Francesco Moser.[42]

1979: Second Tour victory and Classics success[edit]

The 1979 season started slowly for an off-form Hinault. He bounced back at the Flèche Wallonne classic in April, when he caught up to a breakaway by Giuseppe Saronni and Bernd Johansson, outsprinting the former to win the race. He then beat Zoetemelk to victory at the Dauphiné Libéré, winning four stages. He won the race by over ten minutes, also taking the points and mountain classifications. In the coming weeks ahead of the Tour, he proved his willingness to assist his teammates to ensure their loyalty, helping Lucien Didier win the Tour de Luxembourg and finishing second behind Roland Berland in the National Championship race.[43]

Black-and-white photograph of Zoetemelk, wearing cycling gear
Joop Zoetemelk (pictured in 1979) was Hinault's strongest competitor during his first Tour de France victories.

The 1979 Tour de France was again a two-way battle between Hinault and Zoetemelk. In the prologue, Hinault was fourth, on the same time as the Dutchman. The mountain stages started immediately thereafter, with Hinault winning the mountain time trial on stage two, taking over the yellow jersey. He also won the next stage into Pau. The team time trial on stage four again went Zoetemelk's way, as his Mercier team took back 41 seconds on Hinault's Renault squad. Zoetemelk now was only 12 seconds behind Hinault. On stage eight, in another team time trial, Renault fared much better, and Hinault extended his advantage to 1:18 minutes. The next day however, on a stage containing cobbled sections, Hinault suffered two punctures, losing almost four minutes to Zoetemelk.[44] He took back 36 seconds on the time trial in Brussels on stage 11 before regaining the race lead after another time trial, uphill to Avoriaz on stage 15. At this stage, he led Zoetemelk by 1:48 minutes, with third-placed Kuiper already more than 12 minutes behind. Hinault gained another minute on stage 16, before Zoetemelk regained 47 seconds up Alpe d'Huez three days later. The final time trial of the Tour went Hinault's way once again, extending his advantage by a further 69 seconds. He also took the next stage in a slightly uphill sprint finish.[45] On the final stage towards the Champs-Élysées in Paris, traditionally a ceremonious affair without attacks, Zoetemelk broke away with Hinault, with both gapping the field and Hinault taking another stage victory. Zoetemelk finished 3:07 minutes behind Hinault, but then had ten minutes added to his time for failing a doping test. The next finisher, Joaquim Agostinho, was almost half an hour behind the winner.[46]

Towards the end of the season, Hinault won his second cycling monument, the Giro di Lombardia. He had escaped from the field 150 km (93 mi) from the finish, but was later joined by some other riders. Only Silvano Contini finished with him, with the next group more than three minutes behind. The victory also secured that Hinault won his first of four consecutive Super Prestige Pernod International, the award handed to the best rider of the season.[47]

1980: Attempt at the Triple Crown[edit]

As was often the case, Hinault started the season slowly in 1980, withdrawing from Paris–Nice.[48] He then entered Paris–Roubaix, partly to prepare for the cobbled sections during that year's Tour de France, and finished fourth.[49] A week later, he scored one of his most memorable wins at that year's Liège–Bastogne–Liège. As soon as the riders left Liège, snow began to fall, soon turning into a blizzard. Hinault wanted to abandon, as had many others, including all but one of his teammates. He was convinced to carry on until the feeding station at Bastogne, where the snow had turned into rain. Only 21 riders were left by this point. Hinault removed his rain cape and attacked, catching up to the leaders and carried on by himself, winning with a margin of almost ten minutes ahead of Kuiper. The victory came at a price, as his right index and middle fingers took weeks to recover from frostbite, causing him pain for several years to come.[50]

Hinault and Guimard then turned their attention to the only Grand Tour he had not won yet: the Giro d'Italia. They hoped that Hinault would be able to reproduce a feat Eddy Merckx had achieved in 1974, winning the Giro, the Tour and the World Championship in the same year.[51] This is commonly referred to as the Triple Crown of Cycling.[b]

Hinault started the 1980 Giro as odds-on favourite, pitted against local riders Francesco Moser and Giuseppe Saronni, who had the home crowd on their side. Following a fourth place at the prologue in Genoa, Hinault made a spontaneous visit to Fausto Coppi's home of Castellania, paying respect to the first rider ever to have won Giro and Tour in the same year. On stage five, a time trial to Pisa, Hinault took over the race leader's pink jersey. He then relinquished his lead to Roberto Visentini, who was not considered to be a contender for the final victory. On stage 14, he attacked when the peloton relaxed after an intermediate sprint, winning the stage ahead of Wladimiro Panizza, who took the race lead. Hinault then made the decisive move of the race on stage 20, when he attacked on the tough climb of the Stelvio Pass. He caught up with his teammate Bernaudeau, and both carried on for the remaining 80 km (50 mi) of the stage together. Hinault gifted the stage victory to his teammate, while he clinched the overall victory almost six minutes ahead of Panizza.[53]

In the 1980 Tour de France, Hinault was once again set to duel with Joop Zoetemelk, who had moved to the dominant TI–Raleigh squad. Hinault convincingly won the prologue in Frankfurt, 17 seconds ahead of Gerrie Knetemann.[54] On stage 5 from Liège to Lille, which contained cobbled sections used in Paris–Roubaix, conditions were poor with rain and heavy winds. Hinault called for the field to take a slow tempo, but when Zoetemelk's teammate Jan Raas attacked, he went after him. He eventually found himself in a group with several other riders, while Zoetemelk was distanced. At 20 km (12 mi) from the finish, he followed another attack from Kuiper and won the sprint at the line. The next stage was set to contain more cobbled roads, but on Hinault's protest, most of the worst parts were taken out. Hinault had however suffered damage to his left knee on the stage to Lille.[55] With his tendinitis worsening, he carried on until the end of the twelfth stage, just before the race was headed for the Pyrenees. That night, Hinault and Guimard told the race organisers, Jacques Goddet and Felix Levitan, that he would abandon the race, while still in the lead.[56] He left the race at night, not informing the press, which led to a fallout with the media that took years to recover.[57][58] In Hinault's absence, Zoetemelk duly won his only Tour de France.[59] Insinuations that Zoetemelk's victory had been a gift through Hinault's absence were countered by Hinault himself: "My problems were of my own making. It is always the absent rider who is at fault. I was absent and he took my place."[60]

"Five laps from the finish it was obvious that no one was going to beat him. That was how he operated. It was just brutal. That was my introduction to the world of Bernard Hinault."
Robert Millar describing his experience riding next to Hinault during the 1980 World Championship road race.[61]

Hinault returned from the disappointment of the Tour to start at the World Championship road race, held on a very tough parcours in Sallanches, often named the hardest course in the history of the event.[62][63] Hinault had broken away about 80 km (50 mi) from the finish with several riders, including Pollentier and the first-year professional Robert Millar.[c] On the last lap, he dropped his last companion, Gianbattista Baronchelli, on the steepest part of a climb and soloed to victory. It had been a race of attrition with only 15 out of 107 riders making it to the finish.[65][58]

1981: Winning a third Tour de France[edit]

Hinault had never made a secret about his dislike for riding on cobbled roads. The most prominent race of this character, Paris–Roubaix, was met with particular disdain, even though he never finished lower than thirteenth. After the 1980 edition, he had said to organiser Goddet: "You will never see me in this circus again."[66] However, he returned for 1981, saying that he did so out of respect for his stature as World Champion. He suffered seven crashes and punctures, but reached the finish at the velodrome with the lead group, where he outsprinted favourites Roger De Vlaeminck and Moser.[67] One-and-a-half weeks earlier, he had already added a victory at the Amstel Gold Race.[68] Furthermore, he also won the Critérium International and again dominated the Dauphiné Libéré, winning by twelve minutes ahead of Agostinho.[69]

At the 1981 Tour de France, Hinault took an early lead by winning the prologue, then relinquished the yellow jersey to Knetemann and later to Phil Anderson. On the time trial to Pau on stage seven, he regained the lead and did not lose the jersey until Paris, beating Van Impe by almost a quarter of an hour.[70] He won five stages, including all four individual time trials.[71] Amidst media criticism that he was riding too defensively in the mountains, he also took victory in the Alps on a stage to Le Pleynet.[72]

At the World Championship in Prague, Hinault failed to defend his title. Having bridged a two-and-a-half minute gap to a strong lead group on his own, he came third in the final sprint.[73]

1982: Achieving the Giro–Tour double[edit]

Black-and-white photograph of Hinault's face, smiling
Hinault at the 1982 Tour de France

Hinault returned to the Giro in 1982. He looked set for victory after the first two weeks, having taken a significant lead after wins in the stage-three time trial and stage 12 to Campitello Matese. However, on stage 17 to Boario Terme, Guimard and the Renault team misjudged the toughness of the climb and Hinault lost the lead to Silvano Contini. He hit back the next day, winning the stage to Montecampione, turning the race in his favour.[74]

In "his most uneventful Tour",[75] Hinault never looked in trouble on his way to completing the Giro–Tour double at the 1982 Tour de France. He won the prologue in Basel, before the lead briefly turned to Ludo Peeters and Phil Anderson. Hinault regained the yellow jersey after the first time trial and won the overall classification easily. He took four stages, including again the final one on the Champs-Élysées, this time from a bunch sprint.[75] His participation in the final-stage sprint was seen as an answer to critics, who had once again lamented that Hinault had ridden the Tour without panache.[76] Zoetemelk was again the runner-up, more than six minutes behind Hinault.[77] Later in the season, he added another victory at the Grand Prix des Nations.[75]

1983: Second Vuelta and the ascent of Fignon[edit]

Since 1981, Hinault had been joined at Renault by two young talents, Laurent Fignon and the American Greg LeMond.[78] Both joined Hinault for the 1983 Vuelta a España, where he faced stiff competition from local riders like Marino Lejarreta, Julián Gorospe, and Alberto Fernández. Six days before the race started, he had won La Flèche Wallonne for a second time. On stage four of the Vuelta, Fignon attacked and won, but Lejarreta, the defending champion, had followed him and gained time on Hinault. He came back and took the lead the following day on the mountain stage to Castellar de n'Hug. However, just one day later, the Spanish teams jointly attacked and Lejarreta moved ahead of Hinault, who was 22 seconds down. At the uphill time trial at Balneario de Panticosa, he suffered and finished more than two minutes behind Lejarreta. Hinault joined forces with Kuiper and Saronni to attack on stage 10 to Soria, affected by crosswinds. Affected by returning pain in his knee, on stage 14, he was in trouble again, at one point trailing his rivals by more than five minutes, but regained contact. In the time trial around Valladolid on stage 15b, Hinault won, now just ten seconds behind Gorospe in the general classification. The following day brought the last mountain stage and Renault put pressure on Gorospe from early on. Eventually, Hinault, joined by Lejarreta and Vicente Belda escaped for 80 km (50 mi), with him taking victory in Ávila, distancing Gorospe by over twenty minutes and sealing his second Vuelta victory.[79] Due to the tightly fought battle between Hinault and his Spanish competitors, the 1983 race is described on the Vuelta's website as "one of the most beautiful and spectacular" editions.[80]

Hinault's tendinitis had returned and after two failed attempts to get back into racing after the Vuelta, he announced that he would miss the 1983 Tour de France.[81] In his absence, teammate Fignon won the event on his first attempt.[82] Hinault tried another comeback at a criterium two days after the Tour, but the pain returned and he did not race for the remainder of the season.[83]

1984–1986: La Vie Claire[edit]

1984: Defeat at Fignon's hands[edit]

By 1983, the relationship between Hinault and Guimard had deteriorated to a point where the former described their relationship as "war".[84] Hinault forced a choice on the Renault team to either release him or oust Guimard. The team decided to stick with their sporting director, leading Hinault to search for a new team. He joined forces with businessman Bernard Tapie to form the new La Vie Claire squad. Their sporting director became Swiss coach Paul Koechli, who had made a name for himself with innovative and effective training methods, leaving Hinault a lot of freedom while at the same time scientifically measuring his progress.[85] As part of his connection with Tapie, Hinault also contributed to the development of the clipless pedal, created by Look, another company owned by Tapie.[86][87]

Hinault returned to racing at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, where he won the final stage. He then took victory at the Four Days of Dunkirk. But his spring campaign lacked major successes. At the Dauphiné Libéré, he came second to Colombian Martín Ramírez, who later claimed that Hinault and his team had tried to intimidate him during the final stage of the race.[88] Hinault also proved his fighting spirit during the 1984 Paris–Nice, a race he finished third overall. During stage 5 to La Seyne-sur-Mer, Hinault was descending in a lead group with several other favourites. As they reached the valley, the road was blocked by protesters, unhappy with the announced closure of a dockyard at La Ciotat. While the other riders stopped, he drove into the group head-on, dismounted, and punched the protester closest to him. In the ensuing fist fight, Hinault suffered a broken rib.[89]

The 1984 Tour de France was made out to be the big duel between Hinault and Fignon, who had just won the French National Championship.[88][90] Hinault won the prologue, but Renault took the team time trial, 55 seconds ahead of La Vie Claire. He lost another 49 seconds to Fignon in the first long individual time trial, a discipline he had previously dominated. Following the second time trial, Hinault was only seventh on general classification, two minutes behind his adversary. The next stage led to Alpe d'Huez. Hinault attacked on the Rampe de Laffrey, but Fignon was able to respond. The two exchanged attacks on the way up the climb, but it was in the valley that Hinault was able to draw out a gap of about a minute. On Alpe d'Huez itself, he was first passed by eventual stage winner Luis Herrera. When he started to slow, Fignon caught up to him and eventually dropped Hinault, who lost a further three minutes. He would ultimately finish the Tour in second place, a significant ten minutes behind Fignon.[91]

Hinaut managed to bounce back from his Tour defeat in the fall. In late September, he took his fifth and final victory at the Grand Prix des Nations, riding the 90 km (56 mi) time trial at a then record speed of 44.19 km/h (27.46 mph). Fignon could only manage fourth, more than two minutes behind. Next, he won the Trofeo Baracchi, a two-man time trial, in which he competed with Moser. He then won the Giro di Lombardia for a second time, breaking away from the group of favourites 10 km (6.2 mi) from the finish.[92]

1985: The second Giro–Tour double[edit]

For 1985, Greg LeMond switched teams from Renault to join Hinault at La Vie Claire.[93] Together, they entered the 1985 Giro d'Italia. During the race, Hinault was met with hostility from the home crowd, who supported local rider Francesco Moser. On the stage 12 time trial, Hinault took the leader's pink jersey and opened the decisive gap to Moser, who would eventually finish second. During the stage however, Hinault was spat at by spectators and almost knocked over, even though his team car rode behind him with the door opened the entire time to ensure that bystanders would have a harder time impeding him. Hinaut won his third Giro with a margin of just over a minute.[94]

In the 1985 Tour de France, Fignon did not take part due to an Achilles heel injury. Hinault therefore entered the race as the favourite. He took victory in the prologue in his native Brittany. La Vie Claire won the stage three team time trial by over a minute. The next day, Hinault's teammate Kim Andersen took over the yellow jersey. Hinault supported him over the next days, even going so far as dropping back when Andersen punctured to lead him back into the peloton, underlying his loyalty to riders who would later have to assist him. On stage 8, a time trial to Strasbourg, Hinault took back the race lead, winning the stage by more than two minutes ahead of Stephen Roche. While the race travelled through the Alps and in a second time trial, he consolidated his lead, holding an advantage of five-and-a-half minutes on LeMond, who was now second overall.[95]

"I'll stir things up to help Greg win, and I'll have fun doing it. That's a promise."
Hinault pledging his support for Greg LeMond for the 1986 Tour de France in an interview at the 1985 race.[96]

On stage 14 to Saint-Étienne, LeMond finished two minutes ahead of a group containing Hinault. Here, a crash occurred, with Hinault one of the riders involved. He crossed the finish line, but suffered a broken nose. Around the same time, he started to experience symptoms of bronchitis. On stage 17, he showed signs of weakness and was unable to stay with the other leaders on the Col du Tourmalet. LeMond meanwhile followed an attack by Roche, but was forbidden by the team to cooperate to distance Hinault. LeMond would later claim that the team had deceived him by telling him that Hinault was closer behind than he actually was. Hinault eventually finished the stage just over a minute behind LeMond. In the penultimate day's time trial, LeMond won the stage, five seconds ahead of Hinault. This was enough to secure a record-equalling fifth Tour victory for him, by just under two minutes from his younger teammate. After the finish, he publicly pledged that he would support LeMond's bid for a first Tour victory the following year.[95]

1986: The final season[edit]

Color photograph of Hinault on his bike, climbing a mountain while wearing a yellow jersey
Hinault climbing the Col d'Izoard during the 1986 Tour de France. It was here that he lost significant time on rival Greg LeMond, losing the yellow jersey by the end of the stage.

In January 1986, Hinault was given the Légion d'honneur by French president François Mitterrand. He had, already in 1982, announced that he would retire from cycling on his 32nd birthday, in November 1986.[97]

Even though Hinault had pledged support for LeMond for the 1986 Tour, a lot of public attention was given to the possibility of him winning a record sixth Tour. Their La Vie Claire team was seen as dominant,[98] with Laurent Fignon as the most likely challenger.[99][100] Hinault finished third in the prologue, two seconds ahead of LeMond and Fignon.[101] In the team time trial on stage 2, Fignon and Système U gained almost two minutes on La Vie Claire, partly due to Hinault deciding that the squad would wait for two struggling riders, Niki Rüttimann and Guido Winterberg.[102] Hinault then won the time trial on stage 9, gaining an additional 44 seconds on LeMond, who suffered a broken wheel and had to change his bike. Meanwhile, Fignon fell behind and later abandonded the race.[103] On stage 12, from Bayonne to Pau, Hinault attacked with Pedro Delgado. The pair gained more than four-and-a-half minutes on LeMond, with Delgado taking the stage win. Hinault was now in the lead of the general classification, 5:25 minutes ahead of LeMond.[104] Even though his lead was significant, he attacked again the following day, on the descent of the Col du Tourmalet, the first climb of the day. By the top of the next climb, the Col d'Aspin, he led the rest of the field by two minutes. However, joint effort behind brought him back before the final ascent up to the ski station of Superbagnères. Hinault then cracked, coming in ninth, 4:39 minutes behind stage winner LeMond. He now led his teammate by only forty seconds in the general classification.[98]

The race then moved over to the Alps. On stage 17, Hinault got left behind on the Col d'Izoard and lost the yellow jersey to LeMond, falling to third in the overall rankings, 2:47 minutes behind his teammate.[105] Stage 18 featured three major climbs, the Col du Galibier, the Croix de Fer and the final ascent up to L'Alpe d'Huez. Hinault attacked repeatedly, but reached the bottom of Alpe d'Huez with LeMond. He led the way up the climb, lined by approximately 300,000 spectators and crossed the finish line hand in hand with LeMond, in an apparent display of comradery. Urs Zimmermann, who had been second overall at the start of the day, lost more than five minutes.[99] Any signs of appeasement between the rivalling teammates was shattered by Hinault in a television interview shortly after the stage finish, when he declared that the race was not yet over, even though he trailed LeMond by 2:45 minutes.[106]

Stage 20 saw the final time trial and the last chance for Hinault to overcome LeMond's advantage. Aided by a crash from LeMond, Hinault won the stage, but gained back only 25 seconds, conceding defeat after the stage.[107] He lost an additional 52 seconds on stage 21. In his last Tour de France stage into Paris, he took part in the final sprint, taking fourth place.[108] He ended his final Tour de France second overall, 3:10 minutes behind LeMond. He won the mountains classification and was given the combativity award.[109][110]

After the Tour, Hinault won the Coors Classic race in the United States, ahead of LeMond.[97][111] He rode the World Championships Road Race, held in Colorado Springs. He aimed to win, showing a lot of effort in his preparation. However, he finished the race in 59th place.[112][113] On 19 September, he won his last competitive race, a criterium in Angers.[113] Hinault retired from professional cycling on 14 November 1986, his thirty-second birthday. It was celebrated in Quessoy with a symbolic race of 3,600 riders, a concert and fireworks. A total of 15,000 people attended the event.[114]

Retirement[edit]

Photograph of Hinault in a rain jacket, looking to the left
Hinault in his position as presenter at the Tour de France, in 2004

After his retirement from professional cycling, Hinault moved to his farm and bred dairy cows, assisted by his cousin René, who had become an agricultural engineer.[8] Just two weeks after he ended his career, the Tour de France organisers, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), approached Hinault and invited him to join the race management team. He held several positions, including race regulator and route advisor. After Jean-Marie Leblanc took over the role as general director, Hinault was named the Tour's ambassador. Included in his duties was being present during podium ceremonies.[115] During the podium for stage 3 of the 2008 Tour de France, a protester jumped on stage and disturbed proceedings. Hinault leapt forward and shoved him off.[116] He stepped down from the role after the 2016 Tour de France.[117] His role as ASO's brand ambassador was taken over by Stephen Roche, winner of the 1987 Tour de France.[118]

Hinault never became a directeur sportif, leading a team, after his active career, as did many of his competitors. Offers from Bouygues Télécom and a Chinese investor in the mid-2000s fell through. He was the selector of the French national team from 1988 to 1993.[9] Hinault took a role as "patron" with the British Team Raleigh-GAC squad for the 2014 season.[119]

Public image and riding style[edit]

Riding style and legacy[edit]

During his active career, Hinault was known as the patron of the field, meaning the rider with the highest authority. His biographer William Fotheringham has described him as "the last of the sport's patrons".[120] In this role, Hinault would be able to control the pace of the peloton, use his influence with race organisers and even going so far as allowing or refusing other riders the chance to attack. The riders' strike at Valence d'Agen in the 1978 Tour is cited as the first instance in which Hinault assumed this role.[121] His fellow riders stated that he, even though he did not talk much, was able to excert a high amount of certainty and therefore strength, which brought him respect and sometimes fear from his competitors.[122] To stamp out his authority, Hinault would often symbolically ride at the front of the field, instead of in the slipstream of his teammates.[123] His riding style has been described as "fighting, full of aggression", and he himself stated that when he did not feel good in a race, his reaction would be to attack.[124] Hinault described his own role as follows:

You are like a soldier, a general who dominates, who imposes his will on the others. I believe that you are born like that. Some are born to be workers, others to be in charge. I could have been a warlord. I would have waged war to win castles and land if I'd been born in the Middle Ages."[125]

"Now, let's love him."
Headline of the sports newspaper L'Equipe on the day after Hinault lost the 1984 Tour de France to Laurent Fignon.[126]

Hinault was however not always successful in his endeavours. During the 1980 Tour de France, he tried to have the rule which excluded riders outside the time limit on each stage removed. He urged the riders to protest and ride slowly, but some did not follow his example, forcing Hinault to chase them down before he eventually left the race.[127] His enigmatic exit from the 1980 Tour created tensions with the press that would never fully recover during his active career. By 1982, debates about his personality started to appear more and more in the media. Particular interest was given to an alleged lack of panache during his Tour wins and his behaviour towards fans and officials, whom he treated with open disgust.[128] Fotheringham suggests that Hinault only refound popularity with the French public after his knee problems and his Tour defeat in 1984.[129] Fellow racer Robert Millar suggested that in 1986 in particular, Hinault attempted to win over the French public by riding aggressively.[130]

Hinault was not known to particularly enjoy going on training rides, unless he was specifically preparing for an event. He would often greet his training partners in a night gown when they arrived on time for training or have an easy day of training that included stops at a bakery for cake. His distaste for training became even more evident in the winter, when he would gain a lot of weight. Laurent Fignon described the first training camps of the year as follows: "He looked as if he had been inflated. If you didn't know the Badger you would wonder how long it would take for him to get back to what he had been. You would be making a huge mistake."[131] Hinault was capable of suffering through the training camp and returning to winning form within a month.[132] Unlike a rider like Eddy Merckx, Hinault would not aim to win every race he entered. Millar described his approach as such: "Hinault either cared or he didn't. When he didn't care about winning he'd bumble round and hurt you now and again just to remind you he was there."[133]

With a résumé of victories that includes all three Grand Tours (all of them more than once), the World Road Championships and a number of classics, Hinault has often been cited among the greatest cyclists of all time.[58][134] The Historical Dictionary of Cycling for instance describes him as "one of the best riders ever".[135] Comparisons are often drawn with Eddy Merckx, against whom Hinault rode at the beginning of his career. Lucien Van Impe commented: "Merckx was the greatest, but Bernard [Hinault] was the most impressive."[136]

Nickname[edit]

Hinault was nicknamed le blaireau in French, a term that can be translated into English as either "the shaving brush" or "the badger". According to Fotheringham, the nickname originates from Hinault's early training partners, Maurice Le Guilloux and Georges Talbourdet, who would use the term to tease the young rider. Le Guilloux used it once in front of Pierre Chany, a writer for L'Equipe, and the name stuck.[137][138] According to Hinault himself, the term in the first place was supposed to mean no more than "mate" or "buddy".[139] However, Hinault later embraced the association with the wild animal. In 2003, he commented: "A badger is a beautiful thing. When it's hunted it goes into its sett and waits. When it comes out again, it attacks. That's the reason for my nickname. When I'm annoyed I go home, you don't see me for a month. When I come out again, I win."[140] Hinault, as early as 1983, owned a stuffed badger to demonstrate his association with the animal.[7]

Stance on doping[edit]

Hinault never tested positive for performance enhancing drugs during his professional career, neither was he implicated in any doping practices.[141] He did however lead a riders' protest during a criterium race in Callac in 1982 against the sudden introduction of doping controls. He was handed a one-month suspended ban and fined CHF 1,110, though the penalty was never enforced.[142]

Hinault has been outspoken about several prominent doping cases in the past years. In 2013, he heavily criticised French Senators for revealing the results of tests conducted in 2004 on samples from the 1998 Tour de France. He called the initiative "bullshit" and urged lawmakers "to stop bringing out the dead", claiming they "want to kill the Tour".[143] In the same year, he reacted to comments made by Lance Armstrong, a rider stripped of seven Tour victories due to doping offences. Armstrong suggested that it would be impossible to win the Tour de France without performance enhancing substances. To counter this claim, Hinault replied: "He must not know what it was like to ride without doping." Armstrong later clarified that he had spoken about the time when he was riding (1999–2005).[144] In early 2018, Hinault also spoke out about the adverse analytical result for salbutamol of four-time Tour winner Chris Froome at the 2017 Vuelta a España. He criticised Froome for taking part in the 2018 Giro d'Italia while the investigation was still ongoing. In addition, he commented that Froome could not be "listed among the cycling greats".[145] Before the 2018 Tour de France, with Froome's case still ongoing, he urged the other riders to strike in protest if Froome competed.[146] Froome was later cleared of the charges and started the Tour.[147]

Career achievements[edit]

Major results[edit]

Source:[148][149][150]

1972
1st MaillotFra.PNG Junior Road Race, French National Road Race Championships
1975
1st MaillotFra.PNG Individual pursuit, National Track Championships
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Circuit de la Sarthe
1976
1st MaillotFra.PNG Individual pursuit, National Track Championships
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Circuit de la Sarthe
1st Stage 3a
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Tour du Limousin
1st Stage 1
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Tour de l'Aude
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Tour d'Indre–et–Loire
1st Paris–Camembert
1977
1st Jersey yellow-bluebar.svg Overall Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
1st Stages 1 & 5
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Tour du Limousin
1st Stage 1
1st Liège–Bastogne–Liège
1st Gent–Wevelgem
1st Grand Prix des Nations
1978
1st MaillotFra.PNG Road race, French National Road Race Championships
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Tour de France
1st Stages 8 (ITT), 15 & 20 (ITT)
1st Jersey gold.svg Overall Vuelta a España
1st Prologue, Stages 11b, 12, 14 & 18
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Critérium International
1st Stage 3
1st Grand Prix des Nations
2nd Overall Paris–Nice
3rd Giro di Lombardia
1979
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Tour de France
1st Jersey green.svg Points classification
1st Stages 2 (ITT), 3, 11 (ITT), 15 (ITT), 21 (ITT), 23 & 24
1st Jersey yellow-bluebar.svg Overall Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
1st Overall Super Prestige Pernod International
1st Giro di Lombardia
1st La Flèche Wallonne
1st Grand Prix des Nations
1st Stage 3 Tour de Luxembourg
2nd Overall Critérium International
2nd Liège–Bastogne–Liège
2nd Road race, National Road Championships
8th Gent–Wevelgem
1980
1st Jersey rainbow.svg Road race, UCI Road World Championships
1st Jersey pink.svg Overall Giro d'Italia
1st Stage 14
Tour de France
1st Prologue, Stages 4 (ITT) & 5
Held Jersey yellow.svg after Prologue, Stage 1a & Stages 11–12
1st Jersey green.svg Overall Tour de Romandie
1st Overall Super Prestige Pernod International
1st Liège–Bastogne–Liège
2nd Road race, National Road Championships
3rd La Flèche Wallonne
4th Paris–Roubaix
5th Amstel Gold Race
1981
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Tour de France
1st Jersey combined.svg Combination classification
1st Stages 7 (ITT), 16, 20 & 22 (ITT)
Jersey red number.svg Combativity award Overall
1st Jersey yellow-bluebar.svg Overall Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Critérium International
1st Overall Super Prestige Pernod International
1st Paris–Roubaix
1st Amstel Gold Race
3rd Bronze medal blank.svg Road race, UCI Road World Championships
1982
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Tour de France
1st Jersey combined.svg Combination classification
1st Prologue, Stages 14 (ITT), 19 (ITT) & 21
1st Jersey pink.svg Overall Giro d'Italia
1st Prologue, Stages 3 (ITT), 12, 18, & 22 (ITT)
1st Overall Super Prestige Pernod International
1st Overall Tour de Luxembourg
1st Grand Prix des Nations
1st Grand Prix d'Ouverture La Marseillaise
1st Critérium des As
9th Paris–Roubaix
1983
1st Jersey gold.svg Overall Vuelta a España
1st Stages 15b & 17
1st La Flèche Wallonne
1st Grand Prix Pino Cerami
1984
1st Giro di Lombardia
1st Grand Prix des Nations
1st Jersey pink.svg Overall Four Days of Dunkirk
1st Trofeo Baracchi (with Francesco Moser)
2nd Overall Tour de France
1st Prologue
Held Jersey yellow.svg after Prologue
Jersey red number.svg Combativity award Overall
2nd Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
3rd Overall Paris–Nice
4th Züri–Metzgete
1985
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Tour de France
1st Prologue & Stage 8 (ITT)
1st Jersey pink.svg Overall Giro d'Italia
1st Stage 12 (ITT)
1986
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Coors Classic
1st Stages 7a & 11a
1st Jersey gold.svg Overall Vuelta Ciclista a la Comunidad Valenciana
1st Trofeo Luis Puig
2nd Overall Tour de France
1st Jersey polkadot.svg Mountains classification
1st Stages 9 (ITT), 18 & 20 (ITT)
Held Jersey yellow.svg after Stages 12–16
Jersey red number.svg Combativity award Overall

Grand Tour general classification results timeline[edit]

Source:[148]

Grand Tour 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986
Vuelta a España 1 1
Giro d'Italia 1 1 1
Tour de France 1 1 DNF 1 1 2 1 2

Monuments results timeline[edit]

Source:[151]

Monument 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986
Milan–San Remo 54 7 DNF
Tour of Flanders DNS 11
Paris–Roubaix 13 11 4 1 9
Liège–Bastogne–Liège 1 2 1 18 32 19 18
Giro di Lombardia 17 3 1 1
Legend
Did not compete
DNF Did not finish
DNS Did not start

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Due to the events of the stage in San Sebastián, the Vuelta a España did not return to the Basque Country until 2011.[34]
  2. ^ Since Merckx, only Stephen Roche managed to repeat the Triple Crown, in 1987.[52]
  3. ^ Millar later in life had a gender transition and is now known as Philippa York.[64] For the purpose of this article, her name and gender from the 1980s are used.

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Van Gucht 2015, p. 6.
  3. ^ Fotheringham 2015, pp. 26–27.
  4. ^ Fotheringham 2015, pp. 61–62.
  5. ^ Fotheringham 2015, p. 68.
  6. ^ Fotheringham 2015, p. 150.
  7. ^ a b Abt, Samuel (26 June 1983). "Biking's Tour de Force". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  8. ^ a b Fotheringham 2015, p. 304.
  9. ^ a b Fotheringham 2015, p. 306.
  10. ^ a b Fotheringham 2015, p. 32.
  11. ^ Fotheringham 2015, pp. 28–31.
  12. ^ Fotheringham 2015, p. 34.
  13. ^ Fotheringham 2015, pp. 37–38.
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  15. ^ Fotheringham 2015, pp. 50–51.
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  17. ^ Fotheringham 2015, pp. 52–54.
  18. ^ Fotheringham 2015, pp. 55–56.
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  20. ^ Fotheringham 2015, pp. 58–60.
  21. ^ Fotheringham 2015, pp. 63–64.
  22. ^ Fotheringham 2015, pp. 66–68.
  23. ^ Fotheringham 2015, pp. 69–75.
  24. ^ Fotheringham 2015, p. 76.
  25. ^ Van Gucht 2015, p. 18.
  26. ^ Van Gucht 2015, p. 22.
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  30. ^ Fotheringham 2015, p. 105.
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