I remember the last stage of the 1989 Tour de France as if it were yesterday.
Greg LeMond trailed by 50 seconds, behind Laurent Fignon. Fignon was a 2-time Tour winner, and the darling of the French press. With his geeky glasses and wispy blond ponytail (hey, this was the late 80's, after all), he was the European crowd favorite. His victory was all over except for Le Marseilles playing in the background as he accepted his trophy on the podium.
The last stage's ride into Paris was an individual time trial, and it's my opinion that the outcome of the 1989 race is why you'll never again see another individual time trial on the last day of the Tour de France.Greg LeMond, with his controversial TT helmet and aerobars and averaging over 34 mph, made up 58 seconds over Fignon, and won the tour by 8 seconds. 8 SECONDS. Was this the most exciting stage of any Tour de France, ever? Yeah, it was...
I remember the footage of LeMond's wife freaking out on the Champs Elysees, and Greg's wide-eyed farmboy look of shock and amazement when it hit him what had just happened. I remember screaming so loud that the downstairs neighbors started banging on their ceiling with a broom to get me to shut up. Oh yeah, and I remember watching the pain and anguish that had consumed Fignon as he crossed the finish line, dropped his bike, and curled up into a fetal position right there on the road.
It must have been devastating for him. But for me, it sealed my passion for cycling.
In a tour that included a lot of big names like Erik Breukink, Pedro Delgado, and the amazing Miguel Indurain, this was history.
Laurent Fignon died of cancer yesterday, at the age of 50. In a sport that is made up of superhumans, it's almost shocking when the end is so very human. I will always remember him as the guy who made Greg LeMond work impossibly hard to win the most impossible Tour de France victory ever.