Happy Birthday Bernard

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Yesterday was Bernard Hinault’s birthday. He is 57. Cyclingnews did a short article here celebrating a little of Bernard’s career. The name of the article was “Bernard Hinault: The greatest of them all?”

That was a nice thing for those guys to write. It really was. And I know that you have to come up with some kind of spin to try to get people to read your writings, but I’d personally have to disagree with the title.

Don’t get me wrong, Bernard Hinault was a very, very good/great cyclist. He did win 5 Tours and a multitude of other races, about anything he wanted to win if he put his mind to it. But to imply that he was the best cyclist of all ages, that would be a stretch.

I had the pleasure of racing with Hinault quite a few times over the years. Usually racing against him, but also as a team mate for a while. While I did witness some pretty great bike riding, I never personally saw him do anything that was super human, something that I couldn’t have done on my very, very best day.

I don’t have the knowledge to be able to compare riders from different eras of the sport. But, I can compare riders that were from the same era and Greg Lemond was a far superior natural. I know his results don’t outshine Hinault’s, but when I had the opportunity to observe, Greg’s feats were off the charts incredible. I saw Greg do many things on a bicycle that I thought were impossible. Sometimes when Hinault was in the race, sometimes not. Given, I’ve had to opportunity to race with Greg many more times than Hinault, thus having much more opportunity to watch Greg do his thing, but I’ll still have to stick with my belief.

I honestly think that Hinault would not have stopped racing at such an early age, 32, if Greg Lemond would not have come into the sport. Hinault saw, first hand, how great Greg was and saw the writing on the wall. I don’t blame him.

Anyway, I feel fortunate and honored to have been able to race bikes with both of those guys. They both showed me a much higher ceiling than I could have imagined on my own. Something to try to aspire to, even though most it of it was way beyond me.

Me, Thurlow Rogers and Hinault before the start of the 2nd to last day of the RCN in Columbia. Boy, don't we look happy? We'd all crashed a bunch and were just trying to get to the finish.

Bernard pulling with me sitting. We're not off the front here, but just the opposite.

Hinault in the Reno Criterium in the Coor's race, me in 2nd. He wasn't a big fan of crits. Here he pulled the first 5-10 laps continually, super fast, 30+mph. I won close to $1000 in primes because of his method of staying out of trouble.

Lemond and Hinault in their last Tour together.

And I'd go with Bernie to take Greg in a fisticuff for sure.

17 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Bernard

  1. Bri

    No obviously I didn’t race with him so my perspective is a bit different than your Steve. Did you race with him in the States or Europe. I have heard numerous times about his difference, motivationally between the two. Also that his tenacity early on was different from the later years.
    1980 Liege-Bastogne-Liege in Belgium
    1980 World Championship Road Race held in Sallanches, France
    3 Pinks at the Giro
    2 Vuelta Espana
    5 TDFs with a Mtn Jersey and Points Jersey
    Only rider to win all 3 Grand Tours twice
    2 Liege
    Paris Roubaix
    Amstel Gold
    2 Fleche Wallone

    So consider the motivational side of things. It would be like you racing in the Masters in Lawrence compared to a Primary race…just saying…

  2. Phil

    No offense Steve, but to compare your abilities to those of Hinault is a bit of a stretch also. You have accomplished a lot on the American continent results-wise, but Hinault won tons of races on the highest worldwide stage. I’d consider it an honor just to be able compete on his team. Don’t downplay his accomplishments. makes you look jealous.

  3. tilford97 Post author

    Bri-No arguments here about Hinault’s accomplishments. Pretty unbelievable. Lemond’s pales in comparison. But, I was putting more emphasis on natural/raw bike racing talent. Lemond had that hands down.

    The era in cycling was switching during the end of Hinault’s and the beginning of Lemond’s. Greg brought huge salaries into the sport. Guys started focusing on individual races and not racing the “normal” 120 race days.

    I am just writing personal observations. If it were a hard man contest, Hinault would have taken Greg 8 out of 10 times. But, bike racing, both at their best, Lemond 8 out of 10.

  4. tilford97 Post author

    Phil-If you think I was down playing Bernard’s career here, then I didn’t get my views across very well.

    And I wasn’t trying to compare my ability/results to Bernard’s. There isn’t one.

    But, since I am/was using my observations, I have to use what I witnessed personally, while I was competing.

    I’m sure there is a French version of me that has witnessed Hinault’s, undocumented, incredible feats and make a great argument for him.

    Greg could have won the Tour the first year he rode. I think he might have been able to win the race as a junior. He was that good.

    I was just an inside observer.

  5. Just Crusty

    Two things: a) Steve really IS competing today at the pro level against racers 20 years younger and b) Steve is articulate enough to write an interesting 250 words a day about the experience.
    I don’t know about you Phil, but I read this blog daily precisely because of Steve’s experience/perspective.

  6. tilford97 Post author

    I put disclaimer in the post that I don’t have the knowledge to judge how the best cyclist of all time is. I’ve always though it was Merckx. But, I didn’t race then, so just have to let others make that call.

    Here is an article on the new book about Hinault. I should probably read the book.


  7. Jim

    I wonder what kind of snap Hinault had as a junior/neo pro.
    That picture of Bernard/Greg – I always forget how great LeMond looked on a bike until I’m reminded, again.

  8. Brad Carvey

    I am in awe of anyone that finishes a Tour de France. But with very little to go on, I think LeMond was more gifted naturally then Bernard. Growing up in America as a Skier, Greg didn’t have the background or support, that Bernard had. Plus Greg had a lot of bad breaks that hampered his life time results.

    I saw LeMond in one of his first criteriums against cat 1 riders. I think he was 16 (76 or 77?). He was riding junior gears against the best riders in North California. I think he was nervous riding in the pack, so he rode away from everyone. Eventually lapping the field, on a dead flat course. He still didn’t like being in the pack, so he rode away from the field a second time and finish ahead of everyone. That was pure natural ability and he was better at climbing.
    Then there is the time John Howard insisted that Greg roll out his bike, because John couldn’t believe Greg had junior gears.

  9. Rad Renner

    As great as he was, Bernard Hinault never had to win the TdF racing against his own teammate, while Lemond did exactly that.

  10. Franz

    I recently read Slaying the Badger by Richard Moore. It was a good. I realized I knew very little about Hinault and Fignon or the 86 Tour. The proloque was my favorite section. Send me you address and I will mail you the book. The book belongs to Michael. You will probably see him before me.

  11. Ted Lewandowski

    The problem with Thurlow Rogers is that his head was bigger than his capabilities – finishing in the Peace Race in the top ten was one of his biggest accomplishments – but really a joke in terms of the other cyclists that had LESS opportunities.

    Pretty much an over-inflated ego

  12. Jody Prummer

    I am a bit one sided when it comes to Bernard because he was always my favorite rider. I liked how he rode his attitude and how he pushed Gregg. To have met him would be a dream come true. To ride with him awesome. I am jealous that you did both Steve

  13. Bri

    Addendum- Hinault had Vo2Max scores of 93..Lemond was said to have a Vo2 Max of <92 of course these can fluctuate some but something to keep in mind..Armstrong reported at 88. Funny because Hinault reported that his Vo2Max in the winter was around 86. Bloody Little Mean Badger

  14. J

    I think the appropriate comment from Greg or Bernie might be “Back in our day, Lance would not be good enough to carry our suitcases”. I remember reading an interview with Mercxx and he said exactly the same thing.

  15. Andrew

    Hi Steve. Maybe on a slow day, you can reminisce about some of the feats you witnessed Greg accomplish. I’m a huge fan, so it would be cool to read about it; even small stuff that happened out on the road that might not appear in the results.


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