1986 Greg LeMond, the First American to Win the Tour
At the 72nd Tour de France in 1985, Bernard Hinault, who had recovered from a right knee injury to win his third Giro
d’Italia, was victorious in the general classification for a fifth time, a tie for the record in the Tour’s history.
It would also give Hinault a chance to go for winning two championships in the same year for the second time.
One of his teammates was Greg LeMond, a rising young star who at the previous year’s Tour had placed third overall and won the young rider classification.
On the first day, Hinault took the maillot jaune in the individual time trial. Although he lost hold of the jersey afterward, he took it back in Stage 8. Hinault wore the leader’s jersey until the final day, all thanks to Greg LeMond.
During Stage 14, Hinault was caught up in a crash with several other cyclists in Saint-Étienne. He suffered a nasty gash above his left eye that gushed blood all over his face. Even so, Hinault made it to the finish line.
A medical examination later determined he had broken his nose. This made breathing more difficult, but Hinault fought through the rest of the race.
The time gap between the 24-year-old LeMond and Hinault had shrunk, and the American had a shot at taking the general classification for himself, but he stuck to his role as an assistant to the team leader and helped Hinault win.
Only an All-Around Fine Cyclist Could Wear the Maillot du Combiné
Greg LeMond, on the right, is wearing the maillot du combiné (meaning “combination jersey”), a performance award given to the winner of the combination classification,
calculated from a combination of performance points in general, in sprints and in mountains.
It was a jersey that only an all-around skilled cyclist could wear. He must be fast over long and short distances, as well as in the mountains.
In other words, Hinault had the best assistant he could ask for in LeMond.
Although this jersey had a stylishly flashy design, it was discontinued in 1990 because winners of the individual general and mountains classifications won it.
A Road Bicycle Race is Not Won Alone
A bicycle is quite a meager vehicle.
German power meter manufacturer SRM has released data on professional cyclists who have competed in the Tour de France. It shows that while they produce around 900 watts
during the tens of seconds of sprinting before the finish line, with a maximum of barely over 1,000 watts, the average output in the race overall is less than 300 watts.
According to the catalog for the 50 cc Honda Super Cub, the moped produces 2,700 watts.
That means a Tour de France cyclist has only one-seventh its power. When a bicycle travels, there are two primary forces exerting resistance against it: air resistance and
rolling resistance between the wheels and ground.
While air resistance is proportional to the square of speed,
rolling resistance remains fairly constant, even at higher speeds. Most of the cyclist’s power is expended fighting the air.
This is why a rider cannot win a race all on his or her own. Helpers on the team block the wind so the rider can conserve energy to be released at the crucial point for securing the victory.
From a European to a Global Sport: When the Maillot Jaune First Crossed the Sea
The next year, American Greg LeMond would win his first Tour de France. It is said that in exchange for his faithful assistance the year prior, Hinault promised to let LeMond win the next year. Although there has been much talk of a split between the two cyclists, the truth remains a mystery.
Cycling road racing was originally a European sport. Greg LeMond operated amid old customs and a top-down hierarchy, where he would endure taunts for simply eating ice cream, but he found a crack to break through and win the Tour de France.
Noriaki Fujii (2008) “Road Bike no Kagaku” (Road Bike Science) Ski Journal
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”