The Badger Attacks!

Stage 6 to Cherbourg witnessed a surprise attack by a GC favorite. En route to Brittany, Bernard Hinault’s stomping grounds, the Badger attacked the peloton.

The Badger Attacks
Hinault attacks striking workers at the 1984 Paris-Nice race. LeMond took news of Hinault’s attack on Stage 6 like a punch to the gut.

Hinault went for the intermediate sprint at Saint-Manvieu-en-Morray after 50 km, placing second. And then, rather than sitting up and drifting back to the peloton, he continued his effort. Stephen Roche jumps after Hinault along with 10 others, including 4 from Roche’s Carrera team, and by 58 km the leading dozen have 1 minute 30 seconds on the peloton.

The cat has been put among the pigeons—or the badger set loose in the henhouse. Still, given the relatively easy terrain and the lack of crosswinds, the mood in the peloton was one of slight unrest rather than out-and-out alarm. Fignon’s Système U team chased the break, Fignon himself joining the counterattack. He is joined by nine riders, including his teammate Charly Mottet; Hinault’s right-hand man, Jean-François Bernard; and LeMond.

As Fignon’s group began to chase, closing the gap to 22 seconds, Hinault’s group responded, the Badger drove it on, keeping up the pressure, maintaining the gap.

Finally, after 117 km of the 200-km stage, the peloton got its act together. A coalition of Spanish teams hunted down Fignon’s group, catching it and hauling in Hinault and company 3 km later.

Italian sprinter Guido Bontempi won the stage, but the significant act of the day is Hinault’s aggression.

Hinault later explained the motivation behind his attack on the road to Cherbourg. “The Tour had fallen into a lethargy, [so] I restored its color.”

Jacques Goddet, the Tour director, was similarly impressed, writing in his column in L’Équipe, “We love our Bernard Hinault, a pure champion: a rascal, rabble-rousing, proud cyclist, capable of upsetting, of taking the initiative in the most unusual way, and of producing a miracle.”

As race commentator Phil Liggett explains in this video footage, the Badger’s aggression at the 50 km mark occurred before the race television crews joined the head of the peloton. We join the race as a new break has formed, and while every stage of le Tour c’est magnifique, perhaps this video should be abandoned after a minute or two of enjoyment.

Join us tomorrow for continued coverage of the 1986 Tour de France!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this passage from Slaying the Badger by Richard Moore!

During the 2012 Tour de France, VeloPress traveled back through time to replay the 1986 Tour de France one stage at a time. Each morning of the 2012 Tour, VeloPress published a “stage report” with results from the 1986 Tour, which were passages from Richard Moore’s award-winning book Slaying the Badger and supplemented with articles and advertisements from the archives of Velo-news magazine and with race videos from YouTube. VeloPress is pleased to archive these passages from Slaying the Badger, which is an incomparably detailed and highly revealing tale of cycling’s most extraordinary rivalry between the young American Greg LeMond and his teammate, the legendary French rider Bernard Hinault.

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