1979 A French Hero,
Bernard Hinault Went for Two
This photo was taken in 1979, when Bernard Hinault was 24. In May of the previous year, Campionissimo (“Champion of Champions”) Eddy Merckx suddenly announced his retirement at the age of 32.
Hinault seemed to be Merckx’s successor, having won the Tour de France in his first appearance. This year he would try to win it a second straight time.
“He has a head, two arms, two legs, just as I.”
Merckx was still competing when Hinault turned pro. When they were both in a traditional one-day race in Merckx’s home country, Belgium, that dates back to 1892, Hinault said, “He has a head, two arms, two legs, just as I.”
Hinault held Merckx in check to win the race. Perhaps the young racer directed the words above to himself, to create the inspiration to face Merckx, whose presence at the time was intimidating.
In this photo taken two years later, Hinault still has a young, kind face. Even so, it wasn’t long before Hinault came to have a dominating presence that left an impression
on the minds of many fans.
He Who Wins at the L’Alpe d’Huez Cannot Win the Tour de France
Elevation 1,850 meters, 21 curves along 14 km, difference in elevation of 1,130 meters… The L’Alpe d’Huez ski resort, which has provided the backdrop for many a renowned contest, was added to the Tour de France long ago.
Fausto Coppi was the first to win the first-ever summit finish, when it served as Stage 10 in 1952.
He also took the general classification for the overall Tour. But since then, a jinx has cursed riders who win the L’Alpe d’Huez, as few have gone on to win the Tour as well.
They say that because the route is so grueling, the rider who expends all his energy to win it has no more strength left to take the general classification.
Mountain courses are divided into four categories according to difficulty. Category 1 was the most challenging, but in 1979 the hors catégorie, or HC, was added as a more difficult standard for exceedingly steep slopes.
The Col du Galibier and L’Alpe d’Huez were both labeled HC.
That year, Joop Zoetemelk finished first at the L’Alpe d’Huez. Six gears on the rear wheel were typical equipment at the time, but Zoetemelk climbed the mountain with seven,
pursuing Hinault, who was wearing the maillot jaune just 1 minute and 58 seconds ahead.
However, Hinault put on a god-like show of speed in the individual time trial and held onto the maillot jaune
all the way to the end.
Zoetemelk, unable to escape the jinx, placed second.
As a side note, today’s riders use up to 11 gears, and some have even snuck motors into their equipment.
Mustapha Kessous and Clement Lacombe (2014) “Tour de France 100 Wa (Que sais-je? 991)” (“100 Tour de France Stories,” translated into Japanese
from “Les 100 Histoires du Tour de France”) Hakusuisha
L’Equipe (2005) “The Official Tour De France: 1903–2004”
Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd
Bill and Carol McGann “The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 2: 1965–2007”
Tatsuya Anke (2005) “Tour Densetsu no Toge” (Legendary Passes of the Tour) Michitani