bernard or greg - the eternal tdf question!! i'm not going to sit on the fence here as hinault has always been my favourite bike rider. i'm too young (!) to know about the previous cycling heroes like merckx et al, but for me in my time then hinault was the ultimate cycling animal. he was utterly ruthless in all aspects of the sport and gave no room to anyone.
seeing greg come along when he did and really give hinault a run for his french francs was quite something to behold. fignon in his time too was totally on form and he clobbered a less than peak performing hinault. still hinault would ride practically every race in the calendar to win it, regardless of who he was up against. he simply loved to beat people and to win, no matter what or who. and of course he could do it with unbeatable style and panache.
there were a load of terrific riders in the 80s but in his era hinault was undeniably the boss. he didn't just single out the tour de france as later winners did - he hammered all and sundry whatever race he entered. there are few cyclists so utterly compelling to watch in action - physically he was like an animal on the bike, furious faced, gnashing his teeth and with monstrous legs like two sculpted pistons - he was a terrifying sight for his fellow competitors.
i remember stephen roche saying that when he first encountered the badger in his early career, he was totally hammered trying to keep up with him and especially so as hinault made a point of out-psyching the irish neo-pro by riding the whole race in his biggest gear - again, just because he COULD!
i've always admired hinault for retiring when he did - he always said he would retire at 32 and did so in style. you could have a go at him for not "gifting" the 86 tour to lemond and instead making him ride to the very end, but then lemond hung far too many wheels to ever look like he truly deserved to win that tour. this sadly, was to be a characteristic of lemond's racing style - a great tactician and someone who could really blast the peloton to pieces in the mountains and time trials but it was usually by the cattle prod of a close contender and rarely his own decision.
both hinault and lemond were marketing icons of the time. they both possessed good looks, style, strength and charisma - everything that a sponsor looks for in a marketing. these two riders made the 80s absolutely magical for the rest of us mere mortals to watch from the safety and comfort of our armchairs. i've only got two posters up on the wall in my humble abode and hinault and lemond feature in both. tremendous champions and very different people. hinault will always be my favourite rider but then lemond's presence perhaps made hinault look even better than he already did. lemond had the nerve, talent and advantage of youth to draw the rage of the badger.
1989 TvT Carbon Fibre, Oakley Factory Pilots & painkillers . ..
..what else could you possibly need?!!