Greg LeMond dropped an injured Bernard Hinault on today’s mountain stage to become the first rider from the United States to wear the yellow jersey of the leader of the Tour de France.
As second-placed Swiss rider Urs Zimmermann (Carrera) led the leaders group up the early mountain stages, Hinault was seen by the race doctor for pain in his left knee. LeMond attacked Zimmermann on the Col d’Izoard and Hinault was unable to follow.
After visiting the medical car, Hinault negotiated a twisting descent while fiddling with a hex key, adjusting his saddle height, searching for a more comfortable position. He caught the leaders group at the base of the Col d’Izoard.
As they climbed the Izoard, LeMond shadowed Urs Zimmermann, the rider placed third overall. But with Hinault flagging, there was an opportunity for Zimmermann—and LeMond. According to Zimmermann, several riders attacked as the descent began; a group became detached at the front, including, among others, Charly Mottet.
LeMond attacked this group, says Zimmermann, and he followed. Ahead of them was the Col du Granon, a little-known mountain making its first appearance on the route of the Tour de France.
LeMond worked with Zimmermann to establish the gap, but it was Zimmermann who led them up the Granon, piling on the pressure on what was, he said, “maybe the best day of my whole career.”
Behind them, there was carnage. As Zimmermann took second on the stage, 6 minutes 25 seconds behind stage-winner Chozas—who had managed a Merckxesque 150-km lone break—LeMond remained glued to his back wheel to place third on the stage.
The others were scattered behind them, but the big loser was Hinault. He was 13th, 3 minutes 21 seconds behind LeMond, losing the yellow jersey to his teammate and dropping to third overall, behind Zimmermann. LeMond now led the Swiss by 2 minutes 24 seconds and Hinault by a further 23 seconds.
As he talked to reporters at the finish, as the first rider from the United States ever to wear the yellow jersey, LeMond seemed less than ecstatic. He appeared guarded and cautious.
“The race is not over yet,” he said. In fact, he had just endured his toughest physical test of the Tour. “I suffered on the Col du Granon,” says LeMond. “I ran out of fuel.” He managed to avert the dreaded fringale, but having run his reserves so low, he expressed concern about tomorrow’s stage, the most talked-about of the Tour, beginning in Briançon and tackling the Col du Lautaret, the Col du Galibier, and Col de la Croix de Fer before finishing with the fabled ascent of Alpe d’Huez.
The GC after today’s stage:
1. Greg LeMond (La Vie Claire) at 81:24:12
2. Urs Zimmermann (Carrera) 2:24
3. Bernard Hinault (La Vie Claire) 2:47
4. Robert Millar 6:19
5. Pedro Delgado (PDM) 8:00
Today’s stage report was adapted from Slaying the Badger, an incomparably detailed and highly revealing tale of cycling’s most extraordinary rivalry and the greatest ever Tour de France. Find the book in your local bookstore, bike shop, or online in print and as an e-book: