RIP Fignon

My introduction to the sport and the bike – before urban, fixed, or cargo – was with Lemond and Fignon. Hinault, Merckx, Indurain, Mussewu, and Rominger.


Photo: unknown

That’s when the sport seemed far away in Europe and otherworldly to someone that rode his Fisher Paragon in the Eastern Washington shrub steppe desert. Theirs were names told in stories of epic heroism on roads in France. I studied them, watched grainy videos recorded from Satellite TV and learned to ride road. Fell of rollers in the back of a bike shop, read Eddie B’s eat horse-meat book, and was thrilled to get even an hour of Tour coverage on ABC with ridiculous commentary from Adrian Karsten.

Like other mountain bikers, I wanted to get faster by spending more time on the road. This was when the American sport of mountain bike racing was getting overrun by World Cup-class Europeans who were fitter, thinner, and faster. Everyone was turning to road and riding bikes like the carbon-tubed Epic Allez or picture-perfect painted Colnagos, and fishing-lure-green Treks.

The story of a coke-can shimmed Aero Bar, invented by a Triathlete, WWII vet in Idaho was marvelous. Later came the Americanization of the Sport with Lance Armstrong.

What a rich history and dark side this sport has had in the 20 odd years I’ve been into it.

Fignon was many things, a complex character, a true Frenchman and a champion. He blamed his cancer on the dope he took and maybe his death will signal a turning point in this decades-old battle with the two speeds in the peloton. I expect other old pros are wondering about what they did to their bodies. Time for them to come clean too.


Photo: Sirotti via Cyclingnews

trending.png RIP Laurent. Today you’re trending on Twitter. I’ll remember you for the wins, the 8 seconds, and the courage it took for you to tell us you doped.

In another time, you were Young and Carefree.

Laurent Fignon

Photo uploaded by BeWePa.


Fignon was my introduction to the sport as well. His battles with Hinault in ‘84 and ‘85 inspired me to take up this silly sport.

Back in the day when US cycling coverage was relegated to an hour of John Tesh music and commentary, spiked with a few interviews of Kathy Lemond and an occasional glimpse of bike racing, I had the opportunity to be in France during the ‘89 Tour. I got to watch hours of bike racing, hours of actual bike racing, every day. I remember watching the final time trial live, counting the seconds while Fignon rode, and remember the moment when Lemond won the tour.

For the last two months of my stay, all my trainer would say when he saw me was “huit secondes,” and shake his head, as if I alone was responsible for an American victory.

Thank you Laurent, for introducing me to cycling. Thank you for giving me the vehicle to some of the most amazing experiences in my life.

wow, awesome comment.

A Dieu, Laurent.

This is sad to hear. It was the early 80’s, Team 7-11, “Hell of the West”(Coors Classic) days that got me into cycling. I remember Fignon always looking like a cross between Sting and a spectacled professor. When he rode for Systeme U, my brother and I both bought our first cycling caps. I need to dig through some boxes to see if I can find mine. While there were undercurrents of drugs that I wouldn’t hear of until years later, those still remain sunny golden days in my memory.

Agreed—I remember all of us positioning our caps just like Indurain did atop your head with a good poof. His book title is right—we were young and carefree and the Sport for us was something we did for the love of it. A lament for us this year was how commercialized it has become. That’s said with an understanding it was created for Sponsor and money sure, but I mean Vs coverage was directed at maximizing a revenue stream and not the culture or love of the Sport.

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