Laurent Fignon-I remember himHe burst upon the cycling scene in 1983 winning the Tour de France as an audaciuos, impertinent 22-year-old, and winning it again in 84. By rights, those victories should have defined Fignon's career. But it was the fate of the Frenchman, who died on Aug. 31 at the age of 50 from cancer, to be best remembered for a tour he did not win.
The proud bespeckled rider known as Le Professeur led Greg Lemond by 50 seconds going into the final stage of the 89 tour, a 15.2-mile time trial from Versailles into Paris. Despite Lemonds strength in time trials, the American was given little chance of overtaking Fignon, the distance was too short. So believed the Frenchman, who dismissed Lemond's chances as "impossible". So believed the French editors of French papers who had already prepared special editions celebrating Fignon's victory.
Lemond averaged 33.89 mph which stood as the record for 16 years as the fastest Tour time trial ever ridden. Fignon, finished 58 seconds behind Lemond losing the 2,041-mile race by 8 seconds.
"We were competitors, but also friends," recalled Lemond, who also praised his ex-rivals, honesty and frankness, likely a reference to Fignon's admission in 2009 that he had used drugs during his career. Fignon was once asked, are you the guy who lost the Tour by 8 seconds? He simply replied, I'm the guy who won it twice.
Someday, I'll spend the time and write about Greg, the guy who I believe was the greatest of them all. But today, I wanted to just remember Laurent.