Laurent Fignon

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Laurent Fignon (born August 12, 1960 in Paris, France) is a French former professional cyclist, who won the Tour de France twice in 1983 and 1984, and missed winning it a third time, in 1989, by the closest margin ever to decide the tour, 8 seconds . He also won the Giro d'Italia in 1989, having been runner-up in 1984, and the Milan-Sanremo Classic two times.


Fignon (left) and Robert Millar on the Tour de France podium in 1984
Fignon (left) and Robert Millar on the Tour de France podium in 1984

He won his first Tour de France in 1983 when Bernard Hinault did not start due to injury. Hinault was the winner of the Tour in 1978, 1979, 1981 and 1982, whereas Fignon was a young newcomer on the same Renault-Elf- Gitane team directed by the legendary Cyrille Guimard (Hinault's fallout with Guimard the following year meant that Fignon became Guimard's new protégé). Mid-way through the 1983 Tour, the race leader Pascal Simon lost more than three minutes of his advantage to Fignon in a 15.6km individual time trial, with Fignon claiming the maillot jaune two days later. Victorious also in the final time trial, Fignon, at 22, was the youngest man to win the Tour since 1933.

With his round glasses, ponytail and an air of debonnaire, Fignon was a contrast to Hinault's hard-knocks image. He thus earned the nickname The Professor. In 1984 Hinault had changed to the new La Vie Claire team, directed by Paul Koechli, but in the 1984 Tour Fignon and his Renault team proved the stronger. Fignon won the stage 7 time trial, beat Hinault in the sprint for second place on the 14th stage, then beat him soundly in stage 16 (another time trial). On the stage to Alpe d'Huez, Fignon gained a further three minutes over Hinault; he then won the mountain top finish stage at La Plagne, stage 20 from Morzine to Crans-Montana, and the final time trial stage (22) - giving him five stage victories in the Tour. With his air of indifference in interviews and his crushing dominance, he was hailed as France's newest superstar.

A knee injury meant Fignon missed the 1985 Tour, and he did not finish the 1986 race, retiring on stage 12 to Pau. In 1987, he finished 7th overall, taking another victory at La Plagne (stage 18). He also abandoned the 1988 Tour (on Bastille Day).

In 1989 he overtook Seán Kelly to become the number one ranked cyclist in the world. That season included a win at Milan-Sanremo and the Giro D'Italia. However, Fignon is also particularly remembered for finishing second in the 1989 Tour de France when he lost to Greg Lemond by only eight seconds. While Greg Lemond used aerobars ( handlebars which enabled a new and more aerodynamic riding position, also known as tri-bars as they had previously only been used in triathlons) and a new type of teardrop-shaped aerodynamic helmet in the time trials, Fignon used normal road handlebars and wore no helmet, and his ponytail also created additional drag. Fignon also suffered in the 1989 tour from saddle sores and he claimed this is what really slowed him down. Before the final stage time trail, Fignon had a 50-second advantage over Lemond on general classification, but Lemond beat Fignon by 58 seconds in the stage and, with an overall lead of just eight seconds, gained his second Tour de France victory after having become the first American winner of the Tour de France in 1986.

Fignon did not complete the 1990 Tour, but finished 6th in 1991, and 23rd overall in 1992, taking his ninth and last stage win at Mulhouse on stage 11.

However, Fignon was more than just a great Tour rider. He won the Milan-Sanremo Classic twice (1988, 1989) and the 1989 Giro d'Italia despite suspicions of the Italians using unfair tactics to favour their own riders. Fignon probably would have won the Giro in 1984 as well, had an Italian TV helicopter not flown to the side of Fignon in the last individual time trial, as required, but behind Italian favorite Francesco Moser.


Upon retirement Fignon started to become involved with managing several races, most notably Paris-Nice until it was taken over by ASO, the organizer of Tour de France in 2004.

Fignon remains active as a race organizer, for races such as Paris-Corrèze. He recently criticized the state of French cycling, lamenting in L'equipe that, "The sports directors don't do a good job any more. They lack competence and don't have any authority over their riders. The non-results of French teams are not only the consequences of doping," alluding to the more stringent French doping control practices compared to other nations'.

On his relationships with Cyrille Guimard and Bernard Hinault, Fignon said that with Bernard Hinault, Cyrille Guimard already found a champion, whereas with himself, Cyrille made a champion. Therefore his bond with Guimard was much stronger than Hinault's bond with Guimard.

Significant victories by year

1982 Renault-Elf-Gitane
  • 1st, Critérium International
1983 Renault-Elf-Gitane
  • 1st, Critérium International
  • 1st, Overall, Tour de France (and Stage 21 win)
  • Stage, Tirreno-Adriatico
  • Stage, Critérium International
  • Stage, Vuelta a España
1984 Renault (Gitane)
  • 1st, Overall, Tour de France (and Stage 7, 16, 18, 20 and 22 wins)
  • 2nd, Overall, Giro d'Italia (and King of the Mountains and Stage 20 win)
  • Flag of France France National Road Race Cycling Champion
1986 Systeme U (Gitane)
  • 1st, La Flèche Wallonne
  • Stage, Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
1987 Systeme U (Gitane)
  • Two stages, Paris-Nice
  • Stage, Vuelta a España
  • 7th, Overall, Tour de France (and Stage 21 win)
1988 Systeme U (Gitane)
  • 1st, Milan-Sanremo
  • Stage, Critérium International
  • 1st, Paris-Camembert
1989 Super U (Raleigh)
  • 1st, Overall, Giro d'Italia (and one stage win)
  • 1st, Milan-Sanremo
  • 2nd, Overall, Tour de France (Combativity prize and Stage 18 win)
    • 11 days in maillot jaune (Stages 10-20)
  • 1st, Grand Prix des Nations
1990 Castorama (Raleigh)
  • 1st, Critérium International
1991 Castorama (Raleigh)
  • 6th, Overall, Tour de France
1992 Gatorade (Bianchi)
  • 23rd, Overall, Tour de France (and Stage 11 win)
1993 Gatorade (Bianchi)
  • 1st, Overall, Ruta Mexico
Preceded by
Bernard Hinault
Winner of the Tour de France
Succeeded by
Bernard Hinault
Preceded by
Andrew Hampsten
Winner of the Giro d'Italia
Succeeded by
Gianni Bugno
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