Slaying the Badger, The Book

Slaying the Badger U.S. edition final coverSlaying the Badger is an incomparably detailed and highly revealing tale of cycling’s most extraordinary rivalry and the greatest ever Tour de France.

It has gotten spectacular media reviews in the U.S. and U.K.

Find the book in your local bookstore, bike shop, or online in print and as an e-book:

It is July, 1986.

Bernard Hinault is “Le Blaireau,” the Badger. Tough as old boots, he is the old warrior of the French peloton, as revered as he is feared for his ferocious attacks. He has won 5 Tours de France, marking his name into the history books as a member of cycling’s most exclusive club.

Yet as the 1986 Tour de France ascends into the mountains, a boyish and friendly young American named Greg LeMond threatens the Badger—and France’s entire cycling heritage. Known as “L’Américain,” the naïve Tour newcomer rides strongly, unafraid.

The stakes are high. Winning for Hinault means capping his long cycling career by becoming the first man to win the Tour six times. For LeMond, a win will bring America its first Tour de France victory. So why does their rivalry shock the world?

LeMond and Hinault ride for the same team.

Asked by a reporter why he attacked his own teammate, the Badger replies, “Because I felt like it.” and “If he doesn’t buckle, that means he’s a champion and deserves to win the race. I did it for his own good.”

LeMond becomes paranoid, taking other riders’ feed bags in the feed zone and blaming crashes on sabotage. Through it all, with the help of his American teammate Andy Hampsten, LeMond rides like a champion and becomes the first American to win the Tour de France. His win signals the passing of cycling’s last hide-bound generation and the birth of a new breed of riders.

In Slaying the Badger, award-winning author Richard Moore traces each story line to its source through innumerable interviews—not only with LeMond and Hinault in their own homes but also with teammates, rivals, race directors, journalists, sponsors, and promoters. Told from these many perspectives, the alliances, tirades, and broken promises divulged in Slaying the Badger build to the stunning climax of the 1986 Tour de France. Slaying the Badger is an incomparably detailed and highly revealing tale of cycling’s most extraordinary rivalry.

Slaying the Badger: Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault, and the Greatest Tour de France
Richard Moore
Paperback with color photosection
6″ x 9″, 304 pp., $18.95, 978-1-934030-87-5
Read the first chapter of Slaying the Badger.

slaying the badger by richard moore cover imageSlaying the Badger is 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:

Bike shops can find book ordering information at velopress.com/shops.

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LeMond’s Disastrous Time Trial Ends in Yellow

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.

LeMond crashes:

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.

Greg LeMond rides the Stage 9 ITT in Nantes during the 1986 Tour de France

LeMond suffered another disastrous time trial with a crash and bike change

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:Slaying the Badger U.S. edition final cover

Is Greg LeMond in Danger?

After yesterday’s rest day, the 179.5-km stage 19 from Villard de Lans to Saint-Étienne fueled LeMond’s suspicions that dark forces could be massing against him in his bid to maintain the maillot jaune and become the first American to win the Tour de France.

After declaring a go-slow in the first part of the stage Hinault tried, close to the finish, to break away on a descent. He escaped with Stephen Roche, the rider who had been at the center of last year’s La Vie Claire controversy. Loyal to his Carrera teammate Zimmermann, Roche refused to work with Hinault and sat up.

Urs Zimmermann Carrera 1986 Tour de France Velo-news

Zimmermann lost the Tour yesterday

Hinault’s intentions are now clear, though. He is still attacking, still seeking to claw back time ahead of what he had declared would be the deciding stage, tomorrow’s 58-km time trial.

Bernard Hinault Promises Greg LeMond the Tour de France

Hinault seemed to promise LeMond the 1986 Tour

American rider Andy Hampsten said Hinault attacked through the feed zone—a breach of etiquette to which, oddly, the rest of the peloton turned a blind eye. “I thought the [Hinault-LeMond] battle would resolve itself after finishing together on Alpe d’Huez,” said Hampsten. “But we saw Hinault go in the feed zone. We were shocked.”

Bernard Hinault attacks during the 1986 Tour de France Velo-news

Hinault attacks in this photo from Cor Vos

On the road to Saint-Étienne, as Hinault tried to get away, LeMond was bailed out by his most loyal teammates, Steve Bauer and Andy Hampsten. “It’s the only time I’ve ever chased a teammate in my life,” said Hampsten. “It felt weird; I felt sick doing it. I chased my hero, who also happens to be my teammate, but you know what? I’m thinking, This isn’t cool. Greg has the jersey.”

“I knew it was the right thing to do,” added Hampsten. “I’m pissed, sick of the whole situation. Emotionally, it is really, really hard.”

Speaking to reporters in Saint-Étienne after today’s stage, LeMond appeared close to breaking down. The strain was telling; his face was even more drawn. As Rolling Stone put it, “the Tour de France has taken the youthfulness out of LeMond’s face, glazing his small, blue eyes and stretching his skin tightly over the contours of his skull. At 25, he looks like the survivor of a death camp, hanging on to first place overall in what the French papers called a ‘march through hell,’ the hardest Tour de France in 40 years.”

“I don’t see any natural threats,” LeMond told TV reporters when asked what might now stop him winning the Tour. His eyes were red and raw, but they burned with intensity; he looked like he’d been crying.

“I keep hearing rumors about stuff, and I sure hope nothing like that happens. People say that 80 percent of the peloton will race against me, and I just feel that’s kinda absurd. I mean, this is sport. I’ve been racing with Bernard for years. But if I don’t win because of an accident, and Bernard wins because I’ve been knocked out by some rider in the peloton, I just say it will be his worst victory ever, and that’s a bad way to go down in history.

“It’s the tension from the organizer of the race, the public,” continued LeMond. “They want to see Hinault win. But if they want to crash me, I’d rather they told that to me right now, and I’ll give the jersey to him. I’ll stop the Tour de France rather than continue and have someone punch me and knock me down. I can understand the pressure he’s under. But I really can’t understand his attitude—that he wants to win so bad that he’d stab me in the back after promising to work for me in this Tour. You can never trust anybody. Life is that way.”

“I wasn’t really worried about something sinister happening until Goddet’s visit,” said LeMond.

Jacques Goddet, the Tour director. “He said he was so happy to see an American in yellow, and for an American to win the Tour. But then he says, ‘You must be very careful, Greg—there are a lot of people who want to see Hinault win.’”

Goddet told LeMond, ‘I’m hearing many things that are very worrying, and I promise you, Greg, I’ll do everything I can to protect you, but I can only do so much. You have to be so careful, Greg. With your bottles, with your food, with your mechanics . . .’”

“A lot of the stuff he was suggesting hadn’t really entered my mind…” LeMond said.

The organizer of the Tour coming to warn a rider at dinner? “Watch your food? Your water?”

Join us tomorrow for a crucial stage: the Tour’s last individual time trial, a 58km solo test in Saint-Étienne.

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. Slaying the Badger U.S. edition final cover

Find the book in your local bookstore, bike shop, or online in print and as an e-book:

Greg LeMond First American to Lead the Tour de France!

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:Slaying the Badger U.S. edition final cover

In Mistral Winds, the Badger Sneaks Away Again

On today’s stage 16, the peloton faced strong winds on the roads from Nimes to Gap, winds that forced the riders into echelons.

“We had incredibly strong crosswinds today,” says LeMond. “We rode through a canyon, a valley, and there were attacks all day long. Typically, if you’re trying to win the Tour, you have protection from your team on a stage like that—these are very, very dangerous conditions. Guys are assigned to help you, to keep you up the front, help close the gaps.”

“But, uh . . . that didn’t happen for me.”

Bernard Hinault used the wind to his advantage, slipping into a break of four riders after 120km. Hinault’s group quickly latched on to another group of four, making eight as they raced east toward the Hautes-Alpes along valley roads in which the mistral was swirling.

This time, LeMond was watching carefully.

“There was a lot of attacking in the valley,” LeMond said. “Guys jumping away, being caught; gaps opening, being closed. It was so windy you couldn’t get across on your own; you needed to be in a group.”

And then, “All of a sudden a group goes away—and this one’s got Hinault in it. I’d followed him in, I don’t know, about seven attacks. And this is the one I don’t follow. It wasn’t an attack; it was a split, but it goes, and boom! Everyone stops.”

“But the group goes,” says LeMond, “and I’m stuck behind in a group that’s going nowhere, and I’m thinking, Oh, my God, it’s happening again. . . .”

It wasn’t just the presence of Hinault that worried LeMond, though. In the initial group of four—which Hinault’s group caught—were two other La Vie Claire riders, Niki Rüttimann and Guido Winterberg. With Hinault, meanwhile, was Urs Zimmermann, the rider placed third overall. That surely spelled danger. Yet despite the presence of Zimmermann, the eight, including the three La Vie Claire riders, put the hammer down and rode hard. After only a few kilometers, they had gained 52 seconds.

Velo-news photo of the 1986 Tour de France climbers Hampsten, Hinault, LeMond, Herrera

The Tour’s top climbers ride stage 13

“This time, I thought pretty quickly,” said LeMond. Knowing that he couldn’t ask his team to chase down three teammates, he approached a rider on a rival team. “I spoke to Robert Millar. I said, ‘Robert, I’m getting screwed here. Can you get your team to ride—and, if you’re close to me on a mountain stage, I’ll let you have it.’” Millar, a man of few words, nodded his agreement. “He got his team to ride,” said LeMond. “They chased, and got them back.”

But it was a chase that lasted 28 km, which tells how hard the front group was riding given that Millar’s Panasonic team was arguably, after La Vie Claire, the strongest in the race. When the groups merged, LeMond made his displeasure known, gesturing angrily at Hinault. Hinault reacted equally angrily. “I’m the boss of this race,” he told LeMond. “I know what I’m doing.”

With Hinault and company having been brought to heel, La Vie Claire played another card, putting Jean-Francois (“Jeff”) Bernard in the next break. There was no thrilling finale today, with Bernard fortunate that both his breakaway companions punctured on the descent of the Col d’Espreaux. But it was far from a lucky win for the young Frenchman; he arrived in Gap with a lead of more than 3 minutes on his pursuers and moved up to 13th overall, thus giving the team yet another man in the higher echelons of the general classification.

With 5 in the top 13. La Vie Claire’s grip on the Tour is tightening.

Bernard solos in for the win:

Join us first thing tomorrow morning for coverage of stage 17, a threatening mountain stage from Gap to Serre Chevalier. Will tomorrow see a shakeup on the GC?

Today’s race report was adapted from Richard Moore’s new book Slaying the Badger. Slaying the Badger is 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:Slaying the Badger U.S. edition final cover

LeMond and Hinault Near Fisticuffs! LeMond: “Hinault’s gonna pay.”

Today’s stage 12 to Pau saw Bernard Hinault launch a sneak attack on the overall favorites.

With Fignon, Roche, and Anderson knocked out of contention, there is arguably only one favorite whose Tour ambitions were torpedoed by Hinault’s attack: Greg LeMond. But LeMond, growing ever more anxious, was in an impossible situation. He could not chase his own teammate. He could only sit behind his other rivals and watch and wait for them to take the initiative, growing more and more frustrated as they appeared reluctant to do so.

“I’m sitting there,” said LeMond, “with the TV cameras and the photographers on me, and Hinault’s riding away. No one’s chasing him, and I can’t. It’s crazy.”

In Pau, LeMond finished in a state of frustration and confusion. He admitted to reporters, “It’s a very confusing situation to me. I’d rather quit the Tour than get second again.”

And yet it was Hinault, who had taken the yellow jersey and now had a commanding lead of 5 minutes 25 seconds over LeMond, who seemed angry.

“Hinault found out I had been chasing him down with Lucho Herrera, and on the finish line he was almost punching me,” said LeMond. “He was asking, ‘How dare you chase me down?’ We almost had a fistfight right there. They had to hold him back.

“The thing is,” continued LeMond, “I was riding incredibly well. But Hinault and I . . . we’re tiptoeing around each other. He seems to have this idea that whoever won the time trial [in Nantes] would win the Tour almost by default because our team is so strong. Psychologically I think he’s convinced himself of this. But he hasn’t said it to me. And, after the time trial, I didn’t really make a big deal of the flat tire or broken wheel, but I think Hinault felt he’d beaten me fair and square.”

“I should’ve just chased him,” LeMond continued. “As soon as I realized he was away, I should’ve chased him. Eventually I thought, Screw it, I’m going, and I went and took Lucho Herrera with me, and we pulled back a minute and a half by Pau.”

“I mean, I waited till everyone else had been dropped, and I took Lucho Herrera, who’s not going to win the Tour. And Hinault was pissed at me! And that’s when I started realizing, holy shit . . . and I started piecing everything together.

Bernhard Hinault 1986 Tour de France race leader

On the stage to Pau, Hinault took the yellow jersey. Will he ride it to Paris?

 

La Vie Claire Jean-Francois Bernard’s presence in the break with Hinault has fueled LeMond’s suspicion. He wonders if the escape was planned—if, within his own team, a French conspiracy is at play.

“Hinault taking Jean-François with him put Greg in a pretty good bind,” says Steve Bauer. “He really had Greg on the ropes there.”

Steve Bauer continued, “We were all at the front, we were in control of the race, total control, and [Hinault] used that to his advantage by attacking. After he’d gone, we were looking at Greg, thinking, Oh, shit, what do we do? Greg was pretty frickin’ upset when he realized what was happening; he figured he might have lost the Tour right there.”

But LeMond slept well last night.

“I was able to sleep,” said LeMond, looking relieved and then determined. “The objective tomorrow is, I’ve got to make the time back.”

“Hinault’s gonna pay.”

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.

Slaying the Badger U.S. edition final cover

LeMond: “I would have beaten Hinault.”

American hopeful Greg LeMond is disheartened.

When asked about the significance of losing 44 seconds to Hinault, LeMond acknowledges that Hinault expected this stage to determine La Vie Claire’s team captain.

“I had a puncture and I broke a wheel,” says LeMond now of the time trial, “so I lost the time trial by 44 seconds, which I would not have lost had those two things not happened. But in Hinault’s mind . . . I mean, I would have said to his face, ‘You wouldn’t have beaten me if I hadn’t had the flat and broken the wheel; I would have won the time trial.’ But it didn’t matter to him. To him all that mattered was ‘I won the time trial.’”

And it confirmed LeMond’s suspicion that, in Hinault’s mind, the time trial had decided who should be the team’s designated leader.

“But he made that rule himself!” protests LeMond. “I didn’t agree to anything. I didn’t race like that. He, in his mind, was the leader. But in my mind . . . I was clear that—”

LeMond’s wife Kathy interrupted, “The whole winter, the whole spring, Hinault had been clear. He said he’d support Greg.”

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.Slaying the Badger U.S. edition final cover