Stage 6 to Cherbourg witnessed a surprise attack by a GC favorite. En route to Brittany, Bernard Hinault’s stomping grounds, the Badger attacked the peloton.
Hinault went for the intermediate sprint at Saint-Manvieu-en-Morray after 50 km, placing second. And then, rather than sitting up and drifting back to the peloton, he continued his effort. Stephen Roche jumps after Hinault along with 10 others, including 4 from Roche’s Carrera team, and by 58 km the leading dozen have 1 minute 30 seconds on the peloton.
The cat has been put among the pigeons—or the badger set loose in the henhouse. Still, given the relatively easy terrain and the lack of crosswinds, the mood in the peloton was one of slight unrest rather than out-and-out alarm. Fignon’s Système U team chased the break, Fignon himself joining the counterattack. He is joined by nine riders, including his teammate Charly Mottet; Hinault’s right-hand man, Jean-François Bernard; and LeMond.
As Fignon’s group began to chase, closing the gap to 22 seconds, Hinault’s group responded, the Badger drove it on, keeping up the pressure, maintaining the gap.
Finally, after 117 km of the 200-km stage, the peloton got its act together. A coalition of Spanish teams hunted down Fignon’s group, catching it and hauling in Hinault and company 3 km later.
Italian sprinter Guido Bontempi won the stage, but the significant act of the day is Hinault’s aggression.
Hinault later explained the motivation behind his attack on the road to Cherbourg. “The Tour had fallen into a lethargy, [so] I restored its color.”
Jacques Goddet, the Tour director, was similarly impressed, writing in his column in L’Équipe, “We love our Bernard Hinault, a pure champion: a rascal, rabble-rousing, proud cyclist, capable of upsetting, of taking the initiative in the most unusual way, and of producing a miracle.”
As race commentator Phil Liggett explains in this video footage, the Badger’s aggression at the 50 km mark occurred before the race television crews joined the head of the peloton. We join the race as a new break has formed, and while every stage of le Tour c’est magnifique, perhaps this video should be abandoned after a minute or two of enjoyment.
Join us tomorrow for continued coverage of the 1986 Tour de France!
This coverage of the 1986 Tour de France was adapted from Richard Moore’s new book Slaying the Badger. For more on cycling’s most extraordinary rivalry and the greatest ever Tour de France, please find the book in your local bookstore, bike shop, or online.