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Laurent Fignon

From Academic Kids

Laurent Fignon (born August 12, 1960 in Paris) was a French cyclist, who won the Tour de France twice in 1983 and 1984, and missed winning it a third time, in 1989, by a very narrow margin. He also won the Giro d'Italia in 1989, having been runner-up in 1984.

Biography

Fignon started his rise to Tour de France fame in 1983 when Bernard Hinault was not available to ride that year. Hinault had been the dominant force in most Tours for the previous few years, whereas Fignon was a young newcomer on the same Renault team directed by the legendary Cyrille Guimard (Hinault's fallout with Guimard the following year meant that Fignon became Guimard's new protégé). Mid-way through the 1983 Tour, the leader Pascal Simon lost more than three minutes of his advantage to Fignon in a 15.6km individual time trial, with Fignon claiming the maillot jaune two days later. Victorious also in the final time trial, Fignon, at 22, was the youngest man to win the Tour since 1933.

With his round glasses, ponytail and an air of debonnaire, Fignon was a contrast to Hinault's hard-knocks image. He thus earned the nickname The Professor. By the time the 1984 Tour came round, Hinault had switched to the new La Vie Claire team, directed by Paul Koechli, but Fignon and his Renault team proved the stronger. Fignon won the stage 7 time trial, beat Hinault in the sprint for second place on the 14th stage, then beat him soundly in stage 16 (another time trial). On the stage to Alpe d'Huez, Fignon gained a further three minutes over Hinault; he then won the mountain top finish stage at La Plagne, stage 20 from Morzine to Crans-Montana, and the final time trial stage (22) - giving him five stage victories in the Tour. With his air of indifference in interviews and his crushing dominance, he was hailed as France's newest superstar.

A knee injury meant Fignon missed the 1985 Tour, and he did not finish the 1986 race, retiring on stage 12 to Pau. In 1987, he finished 7th overall, taking another victory at La Plagne (stage 18). He also abandoned the 1988 Tour (on Bastille Day).

However, Fignon is also particularly remembered for finishing second in the 1989 Tour de France when he lost to Greg Lemond by only eight seconds. While Greg Lemond used tri-bars and a new type of aerodynamic helmet in the time trials, Fignon stuck to traditional time trial handlebars and wore no helmet. Fignon also suffered in the 1989 tour from saddle sores and he claimed this is what really slowed him down. Before the final stage, Fignon had a 50-second advantage over Lemond, but Lemond turned this around, beating Fignon by 58 seconds in the stage and, with an overall lead of just eight seconds, becoming the first American champion of the Tour de France.

Fignon did not complete the 1990 Tour, but finished 6th in 1991, and 23rd overall in 1992, taking his ninth and last stage win at Mulhouse on stage 11.

However, Fignon was more than just a great Tour rider. He won the Milan-San Remo Classic twice (1988, 1989) and the 1989 Giro d'Italia despite suspicions of the Italians using unfair tactics to favour their own riders. An important individual time trial stage in Giro d'Italia saw the Italian TV helicopter fly in front of Fignon but behind Italian favorite Francesco Moser.

On the Wednesday prior to one of his Milan-San Remo victories, Fignon crashed his primary racing bicycle which was built by Cyfac, often associated with Cyrille Guimard's riders. Guimard called the factory to ask them if they could build another identical frame for the Sunday's race. Francis Quillon of Cyfac obliged, and on Saturday before the race the team mechanic picked up the frame, built it on the way to the race, and on Sunday it was ridden by Fignon to victory.

Retirement

Upon retirement Fignon started to become involved with managing several races, most notably Paris-Nice until it was taken over by ASO the organizer of Tour de France in 2004.

On his relationships with Cyrille Guimard and Bernard Hinault, Fignon said that with Bernard Hinault, Cyrille Guimard already found a champion, whereas with himself, Cyrille made a champion. Therefore his bond with Guimard was much stronger than Hinault's bond with Guimard.

Significant victories by year

1982

  • Critérium International

1983

1984

  • Winner, Tour de France, and winner of five stages
  • Second, Giro d'Italia, and winner of 20th stage
  • National Championship of France

1986

1987

  • two stage wins in Paris-Nice
  • stage win in Vuelta
  • stage win in Tour de France

1988

1989

  • Winner, Giro d'Italia, plus stage victory
  • Milan-San Remo
  • Second, Tour de France, plus stage victory
  • Grand Prix des Nations

1990

  • Critérium International

1992

fr:Laurent Fignon nl:Laurent Fignon

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