Bernard Thévenet

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Bernard Thévenet
Bernard Thévenet - Six jours de Grenoble 2011.jpg
Thévenet at the Six Days of Grenoble 2011
Personal information
Full nameBernard Thévenet
Born (1948-01-10) 10 January 1948 (age 74)
Saint-Julien-de-Civry, France
Team information
Current teamRetired
Rider typeAll Rounder
Professional teams
Major wins
Grand Tours
Tour de France
General classification (1975, 1977)
9 individual stages (1970, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1977)
Vuelta a España
1 individual stage (1973)

Stage races

Tour de Romandie (1972)
Critérium International (1974)
Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré (1975, 1976)

One-day races and Classics

National Road Race Championships (1973)
Thévenet in Montreal in 1974

Bernard Thévenet (French pronunciation: ​[bɛʁ.naʁ te.və.nɛ]; born 10 January 1948) is a retired professional cyclist. His sporting career began with ACBB Paris.[1] He is twice a winner of the Tour de France and known for ending the reign of five-times Tour champion Eddy Merckx, though both feats are tarnished by Thévenet's later admission of steroids use during his career. He also won the Dauphiné Libéré in 1975 and 1976.


Thévenet was born to a farming family in Saône-et-Loire in Burgundy and lived in a hamlet called Le Guidon (The Handlebar).[2] It was there in 1961 that he saw the Tour de France for the first time, on a 123 km stage from Nevers to Lyon. At the time Thévenet was a choirboy in the village church. He said: "The priest brought forward the time for Mass so that we could watch the riders go by. The sun was shining on their toe-clips and the chrome on their forks. They were modern-day knights. I had already been dreaming of becoming a racing cyclist and that magical sight convinced me definitively. It was never that magical when I was actually in the peloton of the Tour!"[2]

From the age of six he went to school on the rack of his sister's bike. He got his own bike a year later and pedalled the 10 km round journey himself.[3] His first adult bike, not a racing machine but a sporty cross between a racer and a touring bike, came as a present for passing school examinations at 14. His parents needed him on the farm too much to be keen on his racing,[2] but they knew their son's ambitions.[3] Thévenet rode his first race and his parents found out only when they read the local paper. There was a row and the club president intervened by inviting the parents to see their son's next race. Thévenet won it.[3]

He was champion of Burgundy in 1965 and 1966 and French junior champion in 1968.[4] In 1967 the manager of the ACBB club in Boulogne-Billancourt Mickey Weigant, drove to his house to enrol him. The ACBB was an accepted development team for professionalism, particularly for the Peugeot team. During 1968, he rode for the amateur team of Jean de Gribaldy, Cafés Ravis-Wolhauser-de Gribaldy, which won the amateur Route de France. After that Thévenet did his military service in 1969.[5]

Professional career[edit]

He turned professional with Peugeot-BP-Michelin in 1970. He rode the Tour de France for the first time in 1970, as a last-minute stand-in. He said: "I wasn't even a reserve in 1970 but, because two riders[6] in the team had fallen ill at Peugeot, the directeur sportif picked me two days before the start." Gaston Plaud had to call a neighbour in the village because neither Thévenet's nor many other families had telephones.[2] Thévenet had left to train with a friend, Michel Rameau, and his mother got a message to him at Rameau's house.

Thévenet asked the advice of Victor Ferrari, a friend who rode the Tour in 1929. Thévenet said: "He was probably afraid that I'd hesitate and he said: 'You're not going to say No, are you crazy? Go on, go...'"[7] Thévenet remembered:

I can remember perfectly getting to Limoges [for the start]. I was anxious and scared at the same time, but full of pride. I was given a new suitcase, seven jerseys, six pairs of shorts, overclothes, sweaters, shirts and so on and so on. Everyone else had a brand new bike, but not me, because I wasn't on the team's entry list.[7]

Thévenet won a mountain stage ending at the ski resort of La Mongie, most of the way up the Tourmalet in the Pyrenees. He said: "That evening, it was all clear [j'ai compris bien des choses]. That I'd saved my season and, because of that, my job, because the obligatory two-year contracts for new professionals didn't exist then."[7]

In the 1972 Tour he crashed badly on a descent and was temporarily amnesic. As he began to regain his memory, he looked down at his own Peugeot jersey and wondered whether he might be a cyclist.[7] On recognizing the team car, he exclaimed: "I'm riding the Tour de France!"

He refused to abandon the race and four days later won a stage over Mont Ventoux. In the 1973 Tour, he finished second, behind Luis Ocaña, but in 1974 he was forced to abandon the Tour on Stage 11 due to illness.

In the 1975 Tour, Thévenet attacked Eddy Merckx on the col d'Izoard on 14 July, France's national day. Merckx, who was suffering stomach pain from a punch by a spectator, fought back but lost the lead and never regained it. Pierre Chany wrote:

Those who were there will be slow to forget Bernard Thévenet's six successive attacks in the never-ending climb of the col des Champs, Eddy Merckx's immediate and superb response, the alarming chase by the Frenchman after a puncture delayed him on the descent of the col, the Belgian's attack on the way to the summit of the Allos, his breath-taking plunge towards the Pra-Loup valley, his sudden weakening four kilometres from the top and, to finish, Thévenet's furious push. The end of the race was frenetic. Has Eddy Merckx's long reign in the Tour de France come to an end on the Pra-Loup. Some think so; others believe that it will happen tomorrow.[8]

A British writer, Graeme Fife, wrote:

Thévenet caught Merckx, by now almost delirious, 3km from the finish and rode by. The pictures show Merckx's face torn with anguish, eyes hollow, body slumped, arms locked shut on the bars, shoulders a clenched ridge of exertion and distress. Thévenet, mouth gaping to gulp more oxygen, looks pretty well at the limit, too, but his effort is gaining; he's out of the saddle, eyes fixed on the road. He said he could see that one side of the road had turned to liquid tar in the baking heat and Merckx was tyre-deep in it.[9]

Beside the road, a woman in a bikini waved a sign that said: "Merckx is beaten. The Bastille has fallen."[3] Thévenet - who had taken the climb on the larger chainring[3] - went on to win the Tour, which that year finished on the Champs-Élysées for the first time. Merckx finished second, three minutes behind.

Thévenet won his second and last Tour in 1977. That winter he was hospitalized with a liver ailment he attributed to long-term use of steroids. Several months later Thévenet lined up for the 1978 Tour de France but had to abandon the second mountain stage in an ambulance.[10] He left the Peugeot cycling team after 1979 and signed for the Spanish team Teka, where he won two races and a six days race with the Australian rider Danny Clark.[11]

He returned to a French team in his final year, 1981, where he won a stage in the Circuit de la Sarthe.[12]


Thévenet said "I have never taken drugs; they wouldn't be any use."[13] However, he was caught taking drugs,[14] in the 1977 Paris–Nice.[15]

His 1978 season was a shadow of his years of winning the Tour de France. He had trouble finishing even minor races. When a journalist at the radio station France Inter wondered aloud if Thévenet's repeated poor performances might be due to doping, Thévenet and his team-mates refused to talk to the station.[16]

Thévenet went to hospital, where tests showed serious trouble with his adrenal glands. He admitted taking steroids and called for an end to drugs in the sport. "I was doped by cortisone for three years and there were many like me," he told Pierre Chany in Vélo-France.[17] The steroids had been prescribed to him by François Bellocq, the Peugeot doctor, who had qualified only in 1976.[18] Thévenet told Chany:

We were all convinced we were doing the right thing [être dans le vrai] and we were certain we were a step ahead of the rest so far as what we were doing to prepare for competition. The young doctor with our team had taken the time to explain to us how the body reacted to effort, which nobody had done before him. His words convinced us of his competence, and maybe we were overconfident, but I had the feeling that he was taking us out of the continual experimentation [l'empirisme habituel] to get us on a more methodical and scientific road. From then on, everything that was said around us seemed to come from ignorance, jealousy or malveillance. I was at ease with myself, satisfied deep down that I was doing my job seriously. That was how it was from 1975 until just recently.[16]


Thévenet became directeur sportif in 1984 of the La Redoute team of Stephen Roche, then of RMO in 1986 and 1987. He became a television commentator and opened a company selling cycling clothes bearing his name. He was asked whether it was hard being a racing cyclist; his reply was that being a French farmer was harder.

Thévenet became race director of the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2010 after the organisation of the race was taken over by the Amaury Sport Organisation.[19]


Thévenet was made a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur on 14 July 2001.

Career achievements[edit]

Major results[edit]

1st Stage 18 Tour de France
4th Overall Tour de France
1st Stage 10
1st Jersey green.svg Overall Tour de Romandie
Tour de France
1st Stages 11 & 17
La Souterraine
Le Creusot
1st MaillotFra.PNG Road race, National Road Championships
2nd Overall Tour de France
1st Stages 7B & 20B
3rd Overall Vuelta a España
1st Stage 11
Le Creusot
1st MaillotVolta.png Overall Volta Ciclista a Catalunya
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Critérium International
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Setmana Catalana de Ciclisme
La Clayette
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Tour de France
1st Stages 15 & 16
1st Jersey yellow-bluebar.svg Overall Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
La Rochelle
Saint-Martin en Ré
Ronde de Seignelay
1st Jersey yellow-bluebar.svg Overall Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
1st Six-Days of Grenoble (with Günter Haritz)
1st Jersey yellow.svg Overall Tour de France
1st Stage 20
1st Tour du Haut-Var
Circuit des genêts verts
Circuit du Cher
Ronde de Seignelay
1st Six-Days of Grenoble (with Danny Clark)
1st Polynormande
Saint-Martin de Landelles
Châteauroux - Classic de l'Indre
Les Herbieres

Grand Tour results timeline[edit]

1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981
Tour de France 35 4 9 2 DNF-11 1 DNF-19 1 DNF-11 DNE 17 37
Stages won 1 1 2 2 0 2 0 1 0 0 0
Mountains classification NR 7 8 4 NR 4 NR 4 NR NR NR
Points classification NR 11 16 4 NR 11 NR 8 NR NR NR
Stages won 0
Mountains classification NR
Points classification NR
Vuelta a España DNE 44 DNE 3 DNF DNE DNE DNE DNE DNE 14 DNE
Stages won 0 1 0 0
Mountains classification NR NR NR NR
Points classification NR NR NR NR
1 Winner
2–3 Top three-finish
4–10 Top ten-finish
11– Other finish
DNE Did Not Enter
DNF-x Did Not Finish (retired on stage x)
DNS-x Did Not Start (not started on stage x)
HD Finished outside time limit (occurred on stage x)
DSQ Disqualified
N/A Race/classification not held
NR Not Ranked in this classification

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Livre d'Or 1968. Paris: Miroir du Cyclisme. 1968. p. 32.
  2. ^ a b c d L'Équipe, France, 12 July 2003
  3. ^ a b c d e Cycle Sport, UK, May 2000
  4. ^ "Bernard Thevenet". Retrieved 2007-09-14.
  5. ^ "Bernard Thevenet 22 novembre 2006". Jean de Retrieved 2007-09-14.
  6. ^ Ferdi Bracke and Gerben Karstens
  7. ^ a b c d Vélo, France, undated
  8. ^ Chany, Pierre, L'Équipe, France, 1975, cited L'Équipe Magazine 16 July 2005
  9. ^ Fife, Graeme (1999), Tour de France, Mainstream, UK, p45
  10. ^ "25 days to last a lifetime". London: Timesonline. 29 June 2003. Retrieved 2007-09-17.
  11. ^ "Results of Bernard Thevenet". de Archived from the original on 2011-07-23. Retrieved 2007-09-14.
  12. ^ "Bernard Thevenet". Retrieved 2007-09-14.
  13. ^ Perez, J. Cyclisme, Thévenet: "Je ne me suis jamais dopé", France-Soir, France, 3 February 1977
  14. ^ de Mondenard, Jean-Pierre (2000), Dopage, l'imposture des Performances, Chiron, France, p167
  15. ^ de Mondenard, Jean-Pierre (2000), Dopage, l'imposture des Performances, Chiron, France, p185
  16. ^ a b cited de Mondenard, Jean-Pierre, Dictionnaire du Dopage (2004), Masson, France, p331
  17. ^ cited de Mondenard, Jean-Pierre (2000), Dopage, l'imposture des Performances, Chiron, France, p25
  18. ^ Bellocq, who insisted until his death that steroids "re-balanced" the body, used another doctor to sign his prescriptions until he could sign his own.
  19. ^ "The Criterium du Dauphine: more than just a Tour de France preparation". 31 May 2011. Archived from the original on 13 June 2015. Retrieved 11 June 2015.

External links[edit]