We did the Première Manche - the first round - of A Travers riding across France from Dieppe to Marseille in the summer of 2009, and it was the original inspiration for this blog. The plan to put the 'band back together again' for another go in 2013 for the second installment fell on stoney ground, with life just getting in the way for too many of us, much to our disappointment. However, our enthusiasm for the bike remains undimmed, and so I'll keep posting my thoughts on the diverse and beautiful facets of the sport regardless. But there's bound to be another big 'adventure ride' coming soon - quite possibly in Italy - so potentially a name change too: Attraverso l'Italia in Bicicletta anyone?

Sunday, 18 March 2012

I've been waiting for over 30 years ...

... to find some decent footage of Hinault winning the World's at Sallanches in the Alps in 1980.

Starting at 56 seconds into this first YouTube clip - I actually own this on VHS but no-one will transfer it to DVD for me because of copyright - you get Hinault talking about how he attacked Gianbattista Baronchelli on the Côte de Domancy. Noting that they changed gears at roughly the same time each lap on the climb, on the final time up Hinault waits until the Italian sits down to change gear, and instead of doing the same launches his attack to drop 'Gibi' and win the title in front of his home fans. Having abandoned the 1980 Tour in yellow due to tendinitis and berated in the French press as a result, Hinault gets his revenge by marshallsing Les Tricolores to destroy the field over what's considered the hardest course ever used for a World Championship. Demi-God status rightfully restored.

However, it's this new clip I've found that gives me goosebumps. Hinault's celebrated rage de vaincre certainly comes across in this video - at times his whole demeanour seems quasi-demonic - and it's at 22:39 in that we arrive at the chapter on his Worlds win. You'll hear the word consignes repeatedly - race orders - and it's Hinault that's giving them. A simple tactic: ride hard from the start, destroy the field on such a hard course, leave the rest to le patron. The slow-motion footage of Hinault cresting the climb with only the Italian for company is awesome. The soundtrack is just right, the images superb: Hinault's legs, powerful, tanned, glistening and affutées after 268km and seven-and-a-half hours of ferocious bike racing, capture everything that was great about this ride.

I'd take this opportunity to point out that whereas most of the field abandoned, a young neo-pro named Robert Millar stayed with Hinault until the final lap, eventually finishing 11th, exhausted. Is it just me or does this ride - hanging on to the Blaireau's coat-tails as he unleashes that summer's pent-up aggression to decimate the entire field in his chef d'œuvre - never seem to get the credit it deserves? That was real grinta from the then 21-year-old Scot, and should be far more widely publicised. If you're reading this Robert - I take my hat off to you. Clearly Hinault was on a mission that day - and Millar alludes to what a hard bastard the Breton was in the opening seconds of his own documentary 'The High Life'. Great ride, but no-one was going to best the Frenchman with a score to settle.