Tuesday, August 31, 2010
There are very few top class sportsmen who wear their glasses while participating in their sport. But the bespectacled face and flowing mane of blond hair tied back in a ponytail were what earned Laurent Fignon his nickname as the Professor on the professional cycling circuit.
We and he knew this day was coming when we would bid farewell to a two-time winner of the Tour de France and the man last man to ride unto the Champs-Élysées in the maillot jaune to lose it by the narrowest margin ever, only 8 seconds to American Greg Lamond. Last year he had announced to the world that he was undergoing chemotherapy for metastatic cancer. He had in his retirement become a commentator on the sport, something he was doing again this July and there was an interview with him during the ITV converage when his familar voice was struggling but he current one was determined to carry on.
He was brought into the Renault-Elf-Gitane team in 1982 to support the four time winner of le Tour Bernard Hinault. But the team leader failed to make the start line in 1983, Pascal Simon assumed that role, but midway through the race had effectively lost that position to Fignon losing 3 minutes over a 15.6km on the individual time trial up the Puy-de-Dôme. A couple of days later on Alpe d'Huez Simon also lost the lead of the race to the young pretender to the crown France's next big thing. However, at just 22 he became the youngest winner of the tour since 1933 when they rolled into Paris.
He repeated the feat the following year, after winning the King of the Mountains in the Giro d'Italia while coming 2nd. In 1989 having won the Giro for his only time the order was reversed by that new aerodynamic bike and riding position adopted by Lemond on the Champs-Élysées.
His best finish in the third Grand Tour the Vuelta a España which is currently in progress was third in 1987.
Here is the day in 1989 that he attacked Lemond and keeps tabs on Pedro Delgado to take the maillot jaune, in honour of the Professor
Laurent Fignon 1960-2010