Campag Delta brakes? They looked amazing on a big bike, terrible on a small one; inside, the mechanism looked like it came out of a Rolex – the mechanics hated them and word was that they weren’t too clever at stopping you on a mountain descent. One by one the Campag equipped teams drifted back to their faithful side pulls.
The infamous Campy C Brakes.
Joop Zoetemelk made a big decision in the winter of 1979; to place himself under the tutelage of probably cycling’s greatest ever manager – Peter Post. Ti-Raleigh’s ‘Kaiser’ guided his Dutch countryman with the lank hair to the best win of his career – the 1980 Tour – with another Dutchman, Hennie Kuiper, seven minutes back. Hinault quit whilst in yellow, the pain from a knee injury too much even for the hard little Breton.
Sure, this was from the 70’s, but it’s still a cool picture of Eddy and Zoetemelk.
In 1981 and Hinault was back in business, five stage wins and a margin of 15 minutes over Van Impe with a ‘back from the dead’ Freddy Maertens also taking five stages and the green jersey. A year later, he was untroubled in taking the 1982 Tour to make it four wins, Zoetemelk was six minutes back with Aussie Phil Anderson’s spell in ‘jaune’ the high light for many.
The Tour was ‘sans blaireau’ in 1983; a death race with the Spanish climbers in the Vuelta had left Hinault with tendonitis. We vaguely remembered that Frenchman, Laurent Fignon was the guy who crashed when alone in the lead in the 1982 Paris – Tours when his bottom bracket axle broke; he sat stunned on the tarmac as the peloton hurtled past him. Incidentally, Campag say they asked for that axle back, to x-ray it; but it never came – feeding speculation that it may have been a ‘super light’ replacement job.
By Sunday 24 July 1983 we certainly knew who the 23 year-old was – a Tour Winner! Pascal Simon had held the jersey mid-race and defended it despite the pain of a dislocated shoulder; but Fignon bided his time and to erase any doubt about his right to win, dominated the final time trial, running out overall winner by four minutes from Angel Arroyo of Spain.
Robert Millar never saw a climb he didn’t like.
In Scotland we still talk about 1984 – the year that Robert Millar won the King of the Mountains and finished fourth on GC; it’s up there with 1314, when we beat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn. Talking of battles, it was the Young Pretender who emerged victorious from this generational and cultural confrontation; with Breton Hinault usurped by the young former veterinary student from Paris – Laurent Fignon. Ten minutes was as close as he could get; and just a minute behind him was a young American – Greg Lemond.
Fignon a happy man in Yellow.
Perhaps Hinault’s greatest quality was his absolute refusal to lay down and in 1985 he showed the world that he was still the King of the Tour; despite a bad crash which left him with a broken nose, the Breton again triumphed – number five, to join Anquetil as top Tour chien. In second place at 1:42 was Lemond, well aware that he could have beaten his La Vie Claire Boss, if given the freedom to do so. This was the first Tour we saw in the flesh; deciding we’d had enough of ‘Cycling Weekly’ black and white pictures and three minute slots on the TV on a Saturday afternoon, we thrashed my Peugeot 205 GTi down to the German border to watch Hinault pulverise the field in the time trial.
Lemond and Hinault crossing the line hand in hand on Alpe d’Huez.
Another of Hinault’s star qualities was his ability to explain outrageous behaviour in words of one syllable and make it look as if he actually believed what was coming out of his mouth. The 1986 was to be Lemond’s, reward for his loyalty in ’85, but instead of playing the team mate, Hinault attacked Lemond at every opportunity; ‘to make Lemond’s win a worthy one,’ or; ‘to keep him on his toes!’ depending on which of Bernard’s versions you listened to. Despite the physical and mental pressure that Hinault heaped upon his young team mate, Lemond was not to be denied and ran out winner by 3:10 from his ex-boss.
Bernard Hinault making Lemond work for it.
In 1986 we saw our first prologue; in Paris; not too far to go, but in ’87 we travelled the full nine yards – the mountain TT on Mont Ventoux. Hinault had retired, Fignon was going like a ‘miner’s boot’ as my buddy Bill Wright used to say – and Lemond? Just like JR Ewing, in Dallas; he’d been shot! The race was wide open – it French darling ‘Jeff’ Bernard who rocked, rolled and poked his way to victory on the Ventoux, and it looked to us like he was going all the way to Paris in yellow.
But smiling Spaniard Pedro Delgado and Ireland’s ‘boy next door,’ Stephen Roche had other ideas, ambushing Bernard on the next stage. A cocky character, well aware of his talents, Bernard hadn’t bothered to cultivate friendships in the peloton – an omission which cost him dearly. Roche beat Delgado in the last time trial – won by Bernard – to take the second part of his majestic Giro/Tour/Worlds treble. Delgado finished second at 40 seconds – we’d be hearing more from the handsome Spaniard later.
Delgado did indeed win in 1988, but it was a messy victory; a substance called probenecid was found in his urine; it could be used as a masking agent to disguise the presence of steroids and was banned by the International Olympic Committee, but fortunately for Pedro – not the UCI. But second placed Steven Rooks of Holland recently confessed in his autobiography that he took EPO that year. . . what the heck! And yes, we were there to see Sean Yates win the stage six time trial.
Pedro Delgado: I’ve made a huge mistake.
We’ve all done it; missed our start in a time trial – but if the time trial happens to be the prologue of the 1989 Tour and you’ve just wasted 2:40; that can be a problem. Then, a day or two later, if you get hunger knock in the team time trial and get dropped by your squad – it’s simply not a good start. Delgado did both of these things in this Tour, dropping huge amounts of time but still standing on the third step of the podium in Paris.
Lemond en route to his dramatic time trial victory.
But an even bigger drama would unfold in the last stage time trial from Versailles into Paris with Lemond over turning Fignon’s 50 second lead in just 24.5 kilometres to win his second Tour by just eight seconds and leave the Frenchman a shell of the rider he was.
And us? We were in Luxembourg, wondering where the hell Pedro was!
The ‘90’s? Greg gets his hat trick; a big guy from Pamplona who got his lungs and rib cage from one of those bulls, comes along and – oh, yeah, some guy from Texas wins a few stages and a Tour de France.