|Competition||Tour de France|
|Given for||Last in classification|
|Local name||Lanterne rouge (French)|
|First winner||Arsène Millocheau (FRA)|
|Most wins||Wim Vansevenant (BEL) (3 times)|
|Most recent||Sam Bennett (IRL)|
The Lanterne Rouge is the competitor in last place in a cycling race such as the Tour de France. The phrase comes from the French for "Red Lantern" and refers to the red lantern hung on the rear vehicle of a passenger railway train or the brake van (USA caboose) of a railway freight (goods) train, which signalmen (USA dispatchers) would look for in order to make sure none of the couplings had become disconnected.
In the Tour de France the rider who finishes last, rather than dropping out along the way, is accorded the distinction of lanterne rouge. Because of the notoriety it affords, riders may compete for the last position rather than settling for a place near the back. Often the rider who comes last is remembered while those a few places ahead are forgotten. The revenue the last rider will generate from later appearance fees can be greater than if he had finished second to last, although this was more true when riders still made much of their income from post-Tour criteriums.
In the 1979 Tour de France, Gerhard Schönbacher and Philippe Tesnière were on the last two spots in the general classification, less than one minute apart. Tesnière had already finished last in the 1978 Tour, so he was aware of the publicity associated with being the lanterne rouge. In the 21st stage, a time trial, Tesnière therefore rode slowly. The winner of the time trial, Bernard Hinault, took 1 hour, 8 minutes and 53 seconds to cover the 48.8 km, Schönbacher used 1 hour, 21 minutes and 52 seconds, while Tesniere rode it in 1 hour, 23 minutes and 32 seconds; both were slower than all other cyclists. Tesnière's time was more than 20% slower than Hinault's, which meant that he had missed the time cut, and was taken out of the race.
The Tour organisation did not like the attention that the lanterne rouge received, and for the 1980 Tour devised a rule to make it more difficult to finish last: between the 14th and the 20th stage, the rider last in the general classification was removed from the race. Still, Schönbacher managed to finish last in that race. Before the Tour, Schönbacher was promised by his sponsor that he would receive extra money when he would finish in last place. After the last stage of the Tour, his team leader Patrick Lefevre told Schönbacher that he would not get the money, and after a heated discussion, Schönbacher was fired.
Lanternes Rouges of the Tour de France
- Strickland, Bill. "The Tour's Master of Last Place". The Wall Street Journal, 25 July 2008.
- "Lanterne Rouge: The Honor Of Being Last In The Tour de France"
- "Tour: Clasificaciones Oficiales". El Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). 19 July 1979. p. 21. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
- "66ème Tour de France - 21ème étape". Memoire du Cyclisme (in French). Retrieved 24 May 2011.
- "Kostbare vergissing Tesnière". Leidsch Dagblad (in Dutch) (Regionaal Archief Leiden). 20 July 1979. p. 9. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
- "67ème Tour de France". Memoire du Cyclisme (in French). Retrieved 24 May 2011.
- "Schönbacher weer laatste". Leidsche Courant (in Dutch) (Regionaal Archief Leiden). 21 July 1980. p. 10. Retrieved 24 May 2011.