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The Tour de France in the 1980s – An American Victory at Last

The Tour de France in the 1980s – An American Victory at Last

The tour moves into modern times with new technology, new tactics and new contenders.

The Tour de France in the 1980s finally saw America’s first victory. But this was really “the Badger’s” decade. Bernard Hinault, after several wins and many career successes, retired in 1986. He and his yellow jersey had been chased for a very long time.

1980 saw the peloton pummeled by relentless rain. Bernard Hinault started the tour like the winner he is but tendinitis in his knee forced him to quit. Joop Zoetemelk from Holland, in his 10th Tour takes over the lead and wins. In 1981, Hinault wanted to prove he was back in the race. He won the Prologue, sat back and relaxed a bit, then took the lead again and convincingly won. Although Phil Anderson was not the first Australian to ride in the Tour, by wearing the coveted yellow jersey he became the most well-known Aussie in the Tour’s history.

1982 saw Hinault at the top of his game. He won the Giro and the Tour de France back to back. During the Tour, he won four stages and wore the yellow jersey for 10 days. And just to show off- he sprinted in the final stage down the Champs-Élysées.

Hinault may have grabbed media attention but others had their moments of glory too. Australia’s Phil Anderson had the yellow jersey for a spell and was the best young rider at the end of the race. Ireland’s Sean Kelly took home the green points jersey.

In 1983, Hinault sat out due to injury. This Tour would be an open event. Pascal Simon, a virtually unheard of rider, had the yellow jersey early in the race. Sadly, he fell and broke his shoulder, an injury that forced him out of the race. Another little-known rider, Laurent Fignon, took the yellow jersey, fended off other riders in the Alps, and finally won. He did it again in 1984, proving that his ’83 victory was no fluke. Hinault finished in second place, 10 minutes behind. His comeback just didn’t happen.

In 1985, the first American to do so, Greg LeMond, finds his way to the podium in second place. Hinault, the badger, made his comeback with a slim two minutes margin. The red jersey is introduced and awarded to the leader of the intermediate sprint-prime category.

In 1986, Greg LeMond, shot in a hunting accident can’t defend his Tour title. Bernard Hinault has retired and Laurent Fignon is still out due to his injuries. The 1986 tour is now wide open and Stephen Roche becomes the first Irishman to win the Tour.

The first American victory in the Tour comes in 1987 when LeMond wins. This year, there are more than 200 riders entered the Tour for the first time.

In 1988, the defending champion, Stephen Roche, can’t start due to injury and Greg LeMond was still recovering from the hunting accident. Instead, 1987 runner-up, Pedro Delgado, took over.

Delgado’s win nearly didn’t occur when news of a his positive drug test broke. However, the substance he used, Promencide, was only on the banned list by the International Olympic Committee, but not on the list of the International Cycling Union until August. Due to a technicality, Delgado keeps his yellow shirt even if it is a little tarnished.

In 1989, it seems that Fignon is set to win again. However, LeMond has his own comeback plans. He wins the first time trial. Fignon fights him all the way. In the end, he wears the yellow jersey and wins by a mere eight seconds.

In 1990, Lemond experiments with triathelete style handlebars. These handle bars are soon used by most other riders. LeMond wins again for the third time.