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Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Laurent Fignon - the death of a sporting legend

France mourns the death of a sporting hero, Laurent Fignon.

Laurent Fignon, Tour de France, 1993 (from Wikipedia, author Eric Houdas)

Take a look at any of the French newspapers this morning and there's one story that stands out; the death on Tuesday of a cycling legend in France, Laurent Fignon.

The two-time winner of the Tour de France died at the age of 50 after a battle with cancer.

Tributes quickly poured in from cyclists, past and present, the world of sport, politics and television on the news of his death.

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, described Fignon as "an extraordinary and exceptional champion who had left an indelible mark on the history of the Tour de France."

The director of the Tour de France, Christian Prudhomme, described him as one of the "great figures of French cycling", a man who had been for the past 30 years "outspoken" and "chivalrous".

To gain a measure of just how important Fignon was to the sport and the esteem in which he was held in France, you have to wind the clock back a couple of decades when he twice won the Tour de France in 1983 and 1984.

Five years later he lost out by the smallest of margins finishing second behind American Greg LeMond after the two men put had put on what has been described as "arguably one of the most thrilling battles in the history of the Tour".

The gap between the two men at the end of a gruelling three weeks was just eight seconds - the closest finish there has ever been to the Tour.

"Fignon was one the greater champions who was recognised more for his loss in the (1989) race than his first two victories," LeMond told France 24.

"When he lost the Tour de France in 1989 it was one of the few where I felt we both won."

He retired from competitive riding in 1993 and in his autobiography published last year admitted that he had taken drugs during his career, but not the performance-enhancing EPOs of the 1990s which allowed mediocre cyclists to compete at a level well above their natural talent.

Among Fignon's 76 career victories were two Milan-San Remo races and the Giro d'Italia in 1989.

Last year Fignon announced that he had been diagnosed with advanced cancer of the digestive system and was undergoing treatment.

But he continued as a consultant for both national public television, France 2, and the commercial radio station, Europe 1, for this year's race even though at times his voice appeared to be failing him.

Laurent Fignon, August 12, 1960 - August 31, 2010.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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