Hinault’s attack on the road to Cherbourg only served to make Greg LeMond even more uncertain and edgy. They have barely left the blocks, but already the pledge that Hinault made to help the American seems as believable as Santa Claus. A new reality has dawned on LeMond: He is on his own in this Tour. He has also begun to suspect that Hinault has reached a fresh agreement, made a new deal—with himself.
But it hinges, thinks LeMond, on the outcome of stage 9, the first individual time trial, a week into the race, on Saturday, July 11. The time trial is in Nantes, where the LeMonds lived when they first arrived in Europe a few years ago. At 61.5 km, it is long, the kind of test Hinault excels at and in which he is so confident that he can apparently enter a state of extreme relaxation in the hours before, sleeping, waking, and then pulverizing the opposition.
“I detected a change in Hinault as the Tour got nearer,” LeMond told Richard Moore, “and then, about two weeks before it started, he didn’t actually say it, but his attitude seemed to be ‘We’ll see after the first time trial. We’ll let that decide who’s leading the team.’ The way he was talking, it all seemed to be about that time trial.
“Which was not,” LeMond claims, “the deal we cut.”
Hinault vs. LeMond
Before the start of today’s time trial, Hinault looked relaxed in dark sunglasses, a white aero helmet, and his distinctive blue Patrick shoes (no one else in the peloton wears them).
He rode the entire time trial with his jaw clenched and his legs churning a huge gear. He exuded power. No souplesse, just brute strength. Even when the road rose, Hinault never sought an easier gear, he seemed simply to clench his jaw even tighter and push harder. Hinault cut through the wind like a blade.
Starting two spots and four minutes before Hinault, LeMond set the fastest time at the first time check: 24:02. LeMond looked uneasy on the bike, his riding style mirroring his personality—punchy, erratic as he stands up on the pedals, sits back down, stands up again, sits down again.
Hinault charged through the time check 20 seconds faster than LeMond.
Then tragedy for LeMond: he punctured and then broke a wheel, requiring a bike change that cost him “at least 30 seconds but probably closer to a minute,” he judges.
At the finish, LeMond set the fastest time at 1:19:30.
Soon after, Hinault crossed the line at 1:18:46, 44 seconds faster than LeMond.
Hinault nearly sprints across the line:
Team 7-Eleven’s Alexi Grewal joked about Hinault’s ride, “He was going so fast I don’t even think I could have sat on his wheel.”
Two years ago, Fignon so dominated Hinault that he could play with him, torment him, and laugh at him. Just after a wipe down from his team soigneur and a quick change, Hinault took a seat in the finish line stands, a TV monitor in front of him and wearing Ray-Ban aviators and a set of chunky headphones (see video below), to watch the performance of the man most consider to be his main rival this year.
Fignon finishes the time trial:
But today, Fignon wove in ungainly fashion toward the finish, a pale imitation of his past self. When Fignon stopped the clock, his time was good enough only for 32nd, 3 minutes 42 seconds slower than Hinault.
But, as Fignon’s disastrous performance sank in, Hinault’s expression didn’t change; he calmly sat up, removed his headphones, and made his way to the podium.
Dane Jørgen Pedersen, who has held the yellow jersey since Cherbourg, barely retained the jersey.
This time trial reshuffles the pecking order. It now reads Hinault, LeMond, Fignon. But with the time he has lost, Fignon is a distant third; he could be out of it altogether.
Stage 9 Nantes Individual Time Trial
1. Hinault 1:18:46
2. LeMond at :44
3. Roche 1:01
4. Julian Gorospe (Reynolds) 1:24
5. Urs Zimmermann (Carrera) 1:42
19. Bauer 2:47
32. Fignon 3:42
62. Hampsten 4:51
1. Pedersen 39:18:58
2. Pelier 1:03
3. Roche 1:05
4. Hinault 1:10
5. Marie 1:24
6. Mottet 1:43
7. Zimmermann 1:53
8. LeMond 1:57
9. Vanderaerden 2:26
10. Millar 2:34
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.