We’re honored that Slaying the Badger has been named one of the 10 best cycling books by Outside magazine!
We hope you have enjoyed our coverage of the 1986 Tour de France, which we feel will go down in history as the greatest ever Tour.
We thank the over 12,000 visitors, 500 Twitter followers, and hundreds of Facebook friends who took time out of their July mornings to follow the race with us here and, more importantly, to share this story.
If you enjoyed this retelling of the 1986 Tour, please be assured that Richard Moore’s new book Slaying the Badger tells the story with far greater skill and in deeper, more fascinating detail. In fact, the book has gotten absolutely rave reviews from the media.
While much of our coverage was excerpted from the book (and drew from Geoff Drake and Jim Ochowicz’s excellent book Team 7-Eleven and the thoroughly enjoyable archives of Velo-news magazine) we have released only the highlights and critical plot moments here. The book has more depth, tension, and yes, even suspense, in part because of Moore’s excellent writing style and interviewing skills.
Slaying the Badger includes dozens of revealing interviews with bike racers and La Vie Claire personnel whose varying recollections of events, changed opinions, personal insights and private confessions paint a complete portrait of LeMond, Hinault, and the years that led up to this, the most important race of their careers and, arguably, the greatest ever Tour de France.
Would you be curious to know what Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault, Andy Hampsten, Urs Zimmermann, Paul Kochli, and others thought of Slaying the Badger after reading the UK edition? The U.S. edition includes their reactions in a new Afterword.
To replay the 1986 Tour de France on this site (which will only be available for a limited time), please visit this post on Thomas Prehn and then begin clicking “Next” in the upper-right corner of the post to move forward to the next story in the chronology.
VeloPress sincerely thanks you for reading.
Greg LeMond helped raise America’s awareness of bicycling racing another notch beyond winning the Tour de France when he visited the White House for a private meeting with President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office.
Immediately upon leaving the White House, LeMond was confronted with a gaggle of reporters from the White House press corps, all of whom were likely seeing a professional bicycle racer for the first time. He took questions and spoke his replies into a thicket of microphones before him like any member of the Senate or Congress.
“I was shocked to be invited to the White House,” LeMond told reporters. “I didn’t think it would happen. I am happy that I got some recognition for cycling. I think that meeting with the President is my highest award. it is probably the biggest honor in my life to be invited to the White House.”
Accompanying LeMond were his wife, Kathy, and their son Geoffrey, age two and a half. LeMond presented President Reagan with a yellow jersey he had won as race leader in the Tour. President Reagan awarded LeMond with a jar of jelly beans, the President’s favorite candy, and two silver cups which were boxed and wrapped in gold paper embossed with the Presidential seal.
LeMond said the amount of media attention he has had since winning the Tour in Paris has been nearly overwhelming. He said he has been subjected to such a whirlwind of interviews and other engagements that he has had only five hours of sleep a night. “My life has just been nonstop,” he said with a weary smile.
His meeting with the President had to be postponed for a day. “I was feeling sick from exhaustion,” LeMond explained. Fortunately, it was not due to food poisoning. “It has been shocking to see the amount of press coverage I have had during the last few days. People even recognize me on the streets now because they’ve seen me on television.”
He said he was glad to see that his victory in France has helped cycling get more visibility in the United States. “American journalists and the American public don’t understand how important cycling is and how tough it is. All this publicity helps.”
When LeMond was asked if there was an ill will between him and five-time winner Bernard Hinault who had been his chief rival in the Tour despite being his teammate, LeMond smiled and simply shook is head. “We get along well,” he said, adding that Hinault was coming over to ride in the Coors Classic stage race which begins August 9 in San Francisco.
“There is a lot of pressure on me to ride well,” he said. “People saw me win the Tour de France and expect me to win the Coors Classic again like I did last year. Right now I need to spend some time just relaxing. I want to play golf for four or five days. I started playing golf a couple of years ago. I usually shoot 90 to 95 when I play.”
–Peter Nye for Velo-news
After what some observers have called the most exciting Tour de France ever, Greg LeMond today completed the 2,542 mile Tour in 110 hours, 35 minutes, and 19 seconds to become the first American to win the race.
Despite repeated attacks throughout the race from his La Vie Claire teammate Bernard Hinault, LeMond bested the French patron and 5-time Tour winner by 3 minutes 10 seconds, overcoming the Badger’s five-minute lead mid-race.
But there was one more minor scare in store for LeMond on today’s final, traditionally ceremonial stage into Paris. The final stage was a marathon 255 km on undulating roads from Cosne-sur-Loire into central Paris. After the champagne and the photos and the general cavorting, there was a crash in the middle of the peloton. At the bottom of the heap was LeMond.
It was a crash caused by inattention, probably induced by extreme fatigue, rather than sabotage. As LeMond picked up himself and his bike, which he inspected and remounted, body and machine were intact.
After a physically and mentally exhausting 4,300 km, 3 weeks, 23 stages, and 110 hours of racing, LeMond, as he began to chase back to the peloton, looked up and was confronted, in the no-man’s-land between him and the pack of riders, by a sight that almost knocked him off his bike again.
Ahead of him, standing on the pedals and slow-pedaling as he waited to pace his American teammate back to the peloton, was Bernard Hinault.
Today’s race report was adapted from Richard Moore’s new book 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:
Today’s stage 21 was a hilly one that finished atop the Puy de Dôme—the spectacular dome-shaped volcanic plug in the Massif Central. The Puy de Dôme is a climb of rich symbolism and incident, where Hinault had fancied claiming his first yellow jersey in 1978, where Eddy Merckx had been punched in the kidneys three years earlier. This year, the mountain’s role is to perhaps allow a challenger to make one last, desperate bid for the yellow jersey.
Hinault led up one of the early climbs, the Croix de l’Homme Mort. But there was a different air about him. He rode with authority, as the patron, but the large group of riders bunched comfortably behind him indicated that the pace he was setting wasn’t ferocious. Hinault was controlling rather than igniting the race. He wasn’t trying to drive a group clear as he had done in the Pyrenees. His goal now seemed more modest: to stay at the head and arrive at the summit first to collect points to consolidate his lead in the King of the Mountains competition.
LeMond kept his loyal teammates Bauer and Hampsten in close attendance, acting as watchdogs, following their master as he moved around the peloton, trying to keep him among the first 20 riders, where it was safer and he could remain vigilant.
In fact, it was Hampsten, not LeMond, who had a problem. A puncture saw him drop back for a wheel change. Yet as he remounted his bike and began to chase, Hampsten was joined by teammates Alain Vigneron and Charly Bérard, who had dropped back when they saw he had a problem. Now they were helping him recapture the peloton. Given the division there’d been in the team, Hampsten was a little surprised, pleasantly surprised. “Hey, thanks,” he told them.
“Are you kidding?” Vigneron responded. “Your fourth place is worth 45,000 francs” [to the pool of money split by the team after the Tour.]
As they began to climb the Puy de Dôme, past an enormous banner that read, “Hinault—6 Tours,” the lead group began to splinter.
Hinault conceded his place at the front. With his job done and his King of the Mountains title secure, he began to slip back. At the summit, LeMond finished among the leaders, in 17th. Hinault came in 34th, 52 seconds farther back. As he approached the line, he eased up, stood on the pedals, and stretched his back. It indicated he wasn’t concerned about losing a little more time.
It was his way of running up the white flag.
Today’s race report was adapted from Richard Moore’s new book 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:
A word from our sponsors, the Velo-news circulation and advertising departments.
Today’s stage 20 looked to be a critical one in the Tour de France, a 58km individual time trial in Saint-Etienne. This stage presented the last time trial of the Tour, one which Hinault said would seal the victory of the strongest rider.
This morning, LeMond headed out on his time trial bike to reconnoiter the course. And during the ride, his pedal breaks. One of the La Vie Claire sport directors Maurice Le Guilloux was following him in the car at the time and couldn’t believe it. “Incredible!” he says. “That never happens.” After last night’s warning from Tour director Jacques Goddet, the broken pedal left LeMond unsettled, and Le Guilloux, too. “But I tried to calm him. I told him, ‘It happens, pedals break; don’t think about it.’”
Before he started his time trial run, LeMond was interviewed. He didn’t look like a man on the verge of winning the Tour; he sounded defensive and defiant. “Hinault attacked me from the beginning,” he said. “He’s never helped me once. I don’t feel confident at all with him. You know, you never know what can happen. I could crash or flat, but I feel really strong. I don’t think there should be any problems.”
LeMond doesn’t trust Hinault:
Hinault and LeMond passed the first two time checks with just a few seconds difference between them.
As he raced smoothly through the tight, crowd-lined streets in the town of Saint Chamond, disaster struck for LeMond. The TV images showed LeMond flying into a 90-degree right-hand bend and then crashing near the left-side barriers.
Tick tock. Tick tock. Every second LeMond lost—as he picked himself off the road, checked for injuries, checked his bike, squeezed the brakes, checked his chain, remounted—was time lost to Hinault.
Tick tock. Tick tock. Worse for LeMond, he doesn’t know how much time he lost at this point. Though Le Guilloux screamed to LeMond that he and Hinault were virtually neck and neck, LeMond couldn’t hear him as his aerodynamic helmet covered his ears.
Soon after, LeMond stuck his hand in the air to signal a bike change. His front brake began rubbing the rim after his crash.
But the spare bike from the roof rack was a standard road bike with a rear disc wheel rather than the low-profile machine he had been riding. The cumulative cost of the crash and bike change and loss of momentum was at least 30 seconds, probably closer to a minute. At 46 km, he was 30 seconds down on Hinault; at 51 km, it was 16 seconds.
LeMond finished the last 12 km safely, crossing the line 25 seconds slower than Hinault, another demoralizing time trial loss to the Badger.
LeMond retained the yellow jersey with 2 minutes 18 seconds to spare.
The broken pedal, the crash, the rubbing brake . . . in the immediate aftermath of the time trial, with blood dripping from his finger after gashing it opening a can of Coke, LeMond suspected foul play. But as he calmed down, LeMond considered each incident and was able to find a rational explanation. “I just took that corner too fast.”
Hinault spoke to reporters. “I’ve really thrown everything at Greg in the last 48 hours,” he said. “I’ve pushed him as hard as I can and spared him nothing—not words, not deeds—and I have put him under maximum pressure. If he doesn’t buckle, that means he’s a champion and deserves to win the race. I did it for his own good. Next year, maybe he’ll have to fight off another opponent who will make life miserable for him. Now he’ll know how to fight back.”
Does LeMond feel that he’s won the 1986 Tour de France?
“It’s not done till it’s done.”
Today’s race coverage was adapted from Richard Moore’s new book 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: