I was looking around online earlier and came across this great picture of Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond settling their differences at the top of Alpe d’Huez during the 1986 Tour de France. It’s a defining moment in Tour history, a truly inspiring image and a tribute to the sportsmanship of both riders. The two of them are up there with the people that I admire most in life. Hinault, very much the master at this stage of the relationship, is a picture of joy as the emerging understudy Greg Lemond looks on with admiration and respect. The whole image, Peugeot, Credit Lyonnais, paint on the road and the smiles all combine to give a perfect window into that late 20th century European psyche.
This is often referred to as the Golden Era of cycling, before helmets removed all its personality and drug use became an acceptable fate. Certainly the riders have changed in as much as they all seemed to come in different shapes and sizes, ranging from tiny Columbian climbers like Luis Herrera to enormous Dutch sprinters who attacked the flatlands with relentless force. Maybe attitudes have changed too, sure it was competitive but it wasn’t so much about being the eventual winner as having a couple of glorious moments.
It’s like all these things though isn’t it? It’s the romance of it all, the memories, the sound of Phil Liggett’s exited voice and the feeling of pride as Robert Millar leaves Pedro Delgado behind in the Pyrenees. Cycling isn’t the most skilful sport in terms of individual competitors, but it’s probably the most romantic and certainly the most stylish.