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French find

In a recent posting, I reviewed the William Fotheringham book "Bernard Hinault and the Fall and Rise of French Cycling." Reading its pages certainly satisfied my quest to learn more about "The Badger," a five-time winner of the Tour de France.

Truth be told, I wasn't a fan of Hinault during the latter part of his career. This dislike primarily stems from what transpired during the Tour de France races of 1985 and 1986. Simply put, Greg LeMond — seeking to become the first American to capture that Grand Tour and whom I was rooting for — went a long way to help Hinault secure his final Tour victory in 1985. As a result, the Frenchman basically promised to return the favor the next year. While LeMond did indeed win the 1986 Tour, Hinault didn't make it easy on his teammate. Launching attacks, stage after stage, playing a lot of mind games, and such. To this day, many believe Hinault was doing his darnedest to gain a sixth yellow jersey.

Reflecting years later on the 1986 Tour, here's what the two combatants — again, remembering they were teammates — had to say ...

Hinault: "For me, there was nothing to discuss. As far as I was concerned, he was the one who was going to win the Tour and that was all, right? Of course I could have won. When you've got five minutes on the first day in the mountains, what do you do? I didn't win five Tours by being on holiday. I could have just sat on Greg's wheel and from then on the race would have been over."

LeMond: "Hinault made promises to me that he never intended to keep. He made them just to relieve the pressure on himself. I wish he had said at the start of the Tour that it was every man for himself. But he didn't."

Despite my misgivings toward "The Badger," I've since grown to appreciate the many achievements of this legendary French professional, especially since delving into Fotheringham's wonderful publication. So I took matters a bit further in order to obtain a part of his cycling history.

As I'd done in the past on two separate occasions, I reached out to the folks at the Horton Collection in San Francisco, California. Having had success — and being very pleased with the results — in acquiring hand-signed lithographs of cycling greats Eddy Merckx and Roger De Vlaeminck, I decided to get a print personally autographed by Hinault. What a great addition to my biking memorabilia.

It shows Hinault participating in the 1979 Tour de France, which he won. The lithograph, part of a limited edition of 150, is inscribed with le Blaireau (The Badger), along with his signature.

Jokingly, I could report that I had one open space remaining on the walls of my man cave — so why not procure the Hinault treasure. Makes perfect sense, right? All that aside, I enjoy having pieces from the past that accentuate my passion for riding a bicycle. And I'm grateful for the opportunity to partake in such an endeavor. Stay safe!

From the Horton Collection — Bernard Hinault, aka "The Badger."

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