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Thursday, 30 September 2010

Sarkozy inspires hip-hop "save-the-world" video

Early into his "reign of office" there was a rapping video dedicated to the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, featuring him as "The King of Bling Bling" which you might remember.

While that clip focussed on Sarkozy's apparent love of "show", the latest music video to hit the Net and starring the French president is somewhat more sober - at least in terms of content.

screenshot from video

It was made by the team of the weekly television programme, "Tout le monde il est beau" on Canal +.

It's a show, hosted by the excellent Bruce Toussaint which, in its own words "revisits the previous week's news stories". In other words it's no holds barred when it comes to poking fun at whenever and where ever it deems appropriate.

In its most recent edition it took Sarkozy's speech at the United Nations in New York last week when he pressed for "a global tax on financial transactions to fund development aid" set it to the music of Alicia Key's monster 2009 hit "Empire state of mind" with reworked lyrics and came up with something described by the French site Le Post as a special "New York hip-hop and bling-bling" version.



The latest musical clip is just one in a long line of those featuring French politicians that have made the Net since Sarkozy came to power in May 2007.

There was the Lipdubbing bandwaggon which the Youth wing of the party so memorably jumped on last year with its video featuring government ministers lip-synching to "Tous ceux qui veulent changer le monde" ("Everyone who wants to change the world"). You can watch it again here should you wish.

Before that a French rapper offered up an ode, or rather a love song, to the former justice minister Rachida Dati just as she was preparing to leave the government and take up her post at the European parliament.

And when Sarkozy reshuffled his government in January 2009 there was another somewhat irreverent video to "celebrate".

All the while of course there has been the support and participation - musically speaking - of a real singer in the shape of France's first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

She most recently brought her own very special universe to rework David Bowie's "Absolute Beginners" - à la Carla.

"If music be the food of love, play on" wrote William Shakespeare in the opening lines of "Twelfth Night".

Well if the Bard were around today perhaps he would adapt his well-known quote a little to comment on French political life and the fun many seem to have in setting politics to music.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Georges Larnicol sets sail - in a chocolate boat

At first sight it seems not only like a mad idea but also one that's pretty impossible to pull off; setting sail in a boat made entirely of chocolate.

But last weekend that's exactly what Georges Larnicol did in the port of Concarneau, a town in the Finistère department in Brittany in north-western France.

Screenshot from Ouest-France video. Georges Larnicol and first mate Joël aboard the chocolate boat.

Not only did Larnicol manage successfully to launch his 3.5 metre chocolate delight, he also managed to clamber aboard and stay afloat for one and a half hours.

As you can see from the accompanying video (courtesy of the regional newspaper Ouest France) it wasn't all plain sailing for Larnicol and his first mate, Joël.

They needed the help of Larnicol's colleagues from the diving club at which he has been a member for the past 11 years to keep the boat afloat and prevent it from tipping over.



And there was a good deal of bailing out of water as the two men headed further out of port.

After one and a half hours though Larnicol once again made dry land to the applause of the one thousand odd spectators who had been present to witness his exploit.

It wasn't the 55-year-old's first attempt to set sail in a chocolate boat.

In August his plans were scuppered when his Chocolate boat Mark I broke into pieces.

But Mark II, which took more than 400 hours to construct, met with more success and pleased with the outcome, Larnicol is promising to build a bigger 12-metre boat complete with chocolate mask for 2012.

For killjoys who might be critical of the apparent waste (of chocolate) involved, Larnicol, not surprisingly perhaps a chocolatier by profession, points out that only "recycled decorative chocolate" was used in the construction of his boat.

In other words, chocolate that was past its sell-by date and could not be eaten.

As the BBC says in its piece on Larnicol's watery exploits, Chocs ahoy!

Cows "trash" French cemetery

The image of cows grazing quietly in the field is surely one of those simple delights of the countryside - be it in France or anywhere else for that matter.

But in the northern French village of Radinghem those gentle creatures decided to go walkabouts last Thursday in search of pastures new.

Unfortunately, as the regional newspaper La Voix du Nord reports, for their owner and the local villagers the 33-strong herd ended up in the village cemetery which, not being enclosed in any way, offered them easy access.

That's where the herd spent the night, and not just chewing the cud.

Instead cows being cows they managed to wreak their own kind of bovine havoc, damaging graves stones, knocking over ornaments and generally causing a mess that left more than a dozen final resting places "trashed".

The following morning Michaël Baheux, the village mayor, after having been informed what had happened, closed the cemetery, put a clean-up campaign into action, contacted some of the families concerned and had photo's taken of the mess so that insurance claims could be made against the owner.

A stonemason has apparently also been contacted to give quotes for repairs.

Proof perhaps that village life, although generally more sedate, can also have its moments.

Moo!

image from Wikipedia, author Daniel Schwen

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Moscow-Nice express train back in service

Last weekend saw the arrival in the southern French city of Nice of the first direct train in almost a century linking Moscow with the Côte d'Azur.

Moscow-Nice express leaving the Russian capital (screenshot from YouTube clip)

Passengers disembarked after more than 50 hours aboard the Moscow-Nice express which left the Russian capital on Thursday, passed through five different countries and made 29 stops en route before reaching its destination just 30 minutes behind schedule.



Waiting for them was "a heroes welcome, a fanfare and official speeches" to mark the arrival of a service which, in the words of a BBC report, harked back "to the days of the tsars, when Russian nobility holidayed on the French Riviera."

http://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/2010/09/26/01016-20100926ARTFIG00229-un-train-de-luxe-relie-desormais-moscou-a-nice.php

The decision to relaunch the route was taken two years by Vladimir Yakunin, the president of the president of the state run Russian railways, as part of a plan to strengthen its continental lines.

Prices for the trip begin at €306 for an adult travelling one way in second class to €459 in first.

For those to whom money is no object, there's also the luxury tariff of €1,050 for a single ticket allowing passengers to travel in a compartment sleeping two people, complete with a shower and a flat screen TV.



For the moment the service operates once a week leaving Moscow on Thursday afternoon and arriving in Nice on Saturday evening and making the return journey on Sunday, arriving on Tuesday.

For those of you who don't like flying and have plenty of time on your hands, it's perhaps the perfect way to travel.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Rachida Dati's "pornographic" economic analysis

It happens to the best of us confusing a word or a simple slip of the tongue.

But when you're a politician such as Rachida Dati and still in the public eye (in spite of her claims that she has never sought the limelight - hide the guffaws please) a simple mistake can give everyone a jolly good belly laugh.

Rachida Dati, screenshot from Dimanche + clip

Such has been the case since Sunday afternoon when the former justice minister and now Member of the European Parliament was a guest on the afternoon current affairs programme Dimanche + on Canal +.

Sharp-eared viewers probably couldn't quite believe their ears as Dati turned an otherwise potentially rather dry subject "foreign investment funds" to one with sexual overtones as she inadvertently threw oral sex into her analysis.

"De plus en plus, ces fonds d'investissements étrangers n'ont pour seul objectif que la rentabilité financière à des taux excessifs," she said.

"Quand je vois certains qui réclament une rentabilité à 20-25%, avec une fellation quasi nulle..."

For those of you who might have missed it, or whose French is a bit ropey, the clue lies in the last five words, "avec un fellation quasi nulle..." and the French for inflation "inflation" and fellatio "fellation".

So what Dati actually said gave her response quite a different meaning from the one intended namely, "Increasingly, these foreign investment funds have only one objective, the financial return to excessive levels.

"When I see some of them looking for returns of 20 or 25 percent, at a time when fellatio is almost non-existent..."

Dati's oral blunder quickly made it on to the Net (you can see it here at 12-13 seconds) and raised more than just a smile in many quarters.


Lapsus: Dati confond "inflation" et... "fellation"
envoyé par LePostfr. - L'actualité du moment en vidéo.

But at least she has had the sense of humour to shrug off the incident with aplomb insisting that of course she hadn't confused the two words.

"I was just speaking a little too fast," she said on national radio on Monday morning.

"You can see that (when you look at the clip)", she added.

"But hey, if it makes everyone laugh..."

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy sings David Bowie

Music fans, pin back your ears. France's first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, has been back in the recording studio.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, screenshot from YouTube video of Top of the Pops performance on France 2 television

She's one of many artists to be found on a new double album to be released next month paying tribute to one of rock and pop's undisputed greats, David Bowie.

The album is due for release next month with all proceeds going to the charity War Child which is a "network of independent organisations, working across the world to help children affected by war".


Bruni-Sarkozy's contribution is a cover of Bowie's 1986 hit "Absolute beginners" and, as Britain's Daily Mail reports, the 42-year-old former model-turned singer and now first lady is being "mocked mercilessly in France after having recorded arguably the most dreadful David Bowie cover of all time".

While that's perhaps being a little harsh and a tad exaggerated (there have been some positive reviews to her interpretation) to be absolutely frank it's not a patch on the original.

But there again Bruni-Sarkozy, with three albums under her belt, isn't exactly in the same category as Bowie.

In her rendition, Bruni-Sarkozy proves to be true to her "style" with the same simple production as can be heard on her previous recordings and of course that delightful rasping, gasping, sensuous voice.

Once again though, perhaps it's best to judge for yourself with this clip, courtesy of Dailymotion.

Enjoy.


Carla Bruni - Absolute Beginners
envoyé par sue_ellen123. - Regardez plus de clips, en HD !

And just in case you've forgotten how it really SHOULD sound...here's the master himself.

Friday, 24 September 2010

French TV channel slaps daytime ban on singer's video

Clearly one of France's national television channels, M6, is taking its responsibility to look after the moral welfare of this country's youth seriously.

It has decided that the video accompanying singer-songwriter Raphaël's latest single is "too violent to be shown during daytime hours" and has banished it to late at night or the wee hours of the morning when young children and teenagers are safely tucked up in bed.

screenshot of French singer Raphaël from his latest video

The problem, it would appear to be, is the sight of a "frail young woman being kidnapped by two hooded men" in the clip of "Bar De L'hôtel".

Yes the broadcaster, whose sister channel W9 recently offer viewers of all ages the chance to watch the delights and saucy goings-on of "Dilemma"; reality TV that left little to the imagination (albeit shown at a respectable past-the watershed hour) has decided that Raphaël's video oversteps the mark.

As the website Le Post points out, it might be less graphic and certainly far from being as violent as other clips that M6 regularly broadcasts during the day, but as far as the channel is concerned the agreement it has with the television watchdog Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel, CSA, means that it has an obligation to protect the sensibilities of younger viewers.

Fans and the simply curious though need have no fear of not being able to see the video.

It is of course out there on the Net for everyone to see, on the singer's official website, YouTube, Dailymotion and and elsewhere, and perhaps thanks to M6 is happily picking up a steady flow of hits.

Take a look and judge for yourselves.

Thierry Henry's 11 million euros apartment

It must be a tough life being Thierry Henry, an almost past-his-best great footballer most recently known for that infamous "helping hand" goal and, in spite of high hopes from many, his failure to say anything of any consequence about the French team's dismal performance at this year's World Cup in South Africa.

Screenshot of Thierry Henry during a TV interview after the 2010 World Cup

Those events are all behind him now as is the glory of his participation France's 1998 World Cup winning side, successful spells with some of Europe's leading clubs sides and a glittering career with Les Bleus that saw him become the country's top goal scorer in international matches.

At 33, "Titi" as he's still affectionately referred to by many in this country, hasn't exactly hung up his boots.

But he has in a way gone to pastures new and definitely green, in the shape of the good ol' US of A, where many a great before him has bolstered up early retirement with a handsome payout in a league which of course is "far from being a vacation".

In July this year Henry left one of Europe's top clubs, Barcelona, and signed for the New York Red Bulls, not for the money of course but for (in his words) the "honour of playing" for the team and helping them "win their first (Major League Soccer) championship."

And as is befitting a top quality player on a "modest" ($5.6 million or €4.1 million for this season) income albeit one that is not subject to the League's salary cap as he's one of the club's designated players, Henry has reportedly bought himself a humble little penthouse apartment in one of Manhattans' most chichi areas.

Described as "a triplex apartment on SoHo's Crosby Street" by the Wall Street Journal, Henry's new home includes "a media room with an integrated wet bar and 72" built-in flat screen TV" - obviously just what anyone needs after a hard day pounding the turf and earning the dollars.

The cost? A mere snip at $14.85 or €11.1 - million that is.

If you'd like to see the obvious squalor to which Henry will be subjected, then take a trip along to the Huffington Post to check out the photographs that appeared on the estate agency's listings....before it was sold.

Happy dreams!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Sports stars lend support to French hostages held in Afghanistan

Some of France's top sporting stars have lent their support to the two French journalists being held in Afghanistan.

It's now 268 days since Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier were kidnapped in Afghanistan.



The two men, staff journalists for the French public television station France 3, were taken captive, along with three Afghan colleagues - Mohammed Reza, Ghulam and Satar - as they were travelling in Afghanistan’s Kapisa province around 120 kilometres northeast of the capital Kabul.

That was back on December 29, 2009.

Although their plight might not be making the news headlines, it's certainly one that is not being forgotten and is in fact covered in every news broadcast on national public television in France.

At the end of every bulletin there's a reminder as to how long to the two men have been held and a thought shared by the presenter with the men and their families.

And this week a number of France's top sporting personalities - past and present - also lent their support to the campaign for the two men in a video clip broadcast on France 3 among them, Olympic gold medallist in canoëing Tony Estanguet, a member of France's 1998 World Cup winning team Emmanuel Petit and the captain of the national handball team, Jérôme Fernandez.

There is also an online petition and you can follow the link to sign.

Signer la petition

And lest people might forget about the two men, there's also an Internet site charting activities and reminding us all as to just how long they've been held.


Soutien aux journalistes otages place de la Bourse à Paris
envoyé par Nouvelobs. - Regardez les dernières vidéos d'actu.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

French strikes - pensions and Champagne

Yes there is a link between the two; admittedly a little tenuous perhaps.

Strikes protesting the French government's pension reform plans are almost guaranteed to make the headlines here in France on Thursday.

But there's also another labour dispute that hasn't really grabbed too much media attention.

It involves one of this country's most famous drinks - champagne - and one of the best-known names at home and abroad Piper-Heidsieck.

Employees at Piper-Heidsieck have been on strike for the best part of a week now over plans by its parent company, Rémy Cointreau, to cut around 40 jobs from a workforce of 160.

It's a reaction to a reportedly poor company performance in 2009 and the need to "redress the balance through restructuring".

The timing of the strike couldn't be more awkward or delicate for the company as it comes right at the beginning of the annual grape harvest.

But a spokesman for the directors has reportedly insisted that, "There would no impact on the business".

As the national daily Aujourd'hui en France - Le Parisien commented, "Who said champagne wasn't being touched by the recession?"

photograph author, Jon Sullivan/PDPhoto.org from source

That strike of course will be overshadowed by yet another day of action over the government's pension reforms, and in particular plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.

Public transport services in particular are likely to be disrupted, not just in Paris, but throughout the country, in what promises to be another fun-thrilled day for those trying to make their way to work...and then back home again.

There are the usual warnings from SNCF, the country's railway operator, with a breakdown of the services likely to be hit and kind of delays everyone can expect.

And for those trying to get around the French capital, perhaps it's a good idea to check out the RATP site.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Philippe Croizon's inspirational Channel swim

By any definition, Philippe Croizon is an extraordinary man, and surely and inspiration to us all.

At the weekend he swam the Channel - the 34-kilometre stretch of water separating Britain from France.

Not much special about that perhaps; it has been done many a time.

The difference is that Croizon doesn't have any arms or legs.



The 42-year-old father of two had his limbs amputated after receiving an electrical shock while removing a television aerial from a roof 16 years ago.

It was while he lay in his bed recovering from the final amputation that the idea of swimming the Channel came to him, as he explained on national radio following his exploit at the weekend.

"As I lay there I saw a report on television of a woman who had swum the Channel," he said.

"That's when I said to myself 'Why shouldn't I give that a try?' and here we are 16 years later and it's my turn."

He spoke to the local authorities about his idea and they supported him, gave him the use of the municipal pool and found him a trainer.

"When Valérie (Carbonel, his coach) first told me to get in the water and show her what I could do, I think I must have managed about 25 metres, I was out of breath and I didn't know what to do without arms and legs. It was terrible," he admitted.

"She couldn't believe I was serious about wanting to swim the Channel," he continued.

"But I told her that once I got an idea into my head I was going to see it through to the end."

Croizon had prosthetic legs made with fins attached which would help him move more quickly and over the past two years trained regularly, putting in more than 30 hours a week.

It was a tough schedule that more than paid dividends as not only did he manage to make it from Folkestone in Kent to Cap Gris Nez, he also did it much more quickly than the allotted 24 hours he had given himself; completing the feat in just over 13 hours.

And that in spite of the pain and fatigue that set in during the crossing.

"Somehow even though I was in pain for much of the swim, I profited in a sense from what I had experienced after my accident," he said.

"It might sound bizarre to say that but after losing my limbs I was hospitalised for two years and during that time I had to overcome hurdles to learn how to become independent," he continued.

"And that period in a very real sense helped me in my training. Every time I reached a barrier and I thought I couldn't go on, I went beyond it."

The message Croizon hopes others will learn from what he has done is that a handicap doesn't stop a person from living.

"Of course there's suffering and we have the right to cry when it hurts, but you also have to lift your head up high and live life," he said

"I have a handicap but I didn't want to be dictated to or dominated by it."

Monday, 6 September 2010

Rama Yade condemns homophobia in sport

The French junior minister for sports, Rama Yade, has once again "stepped up to the plate" to use a sporting term, to denounce all forms of discrimination in sport, and in particular homophobia.

On Friday, Yade, called for action to be taken in the case of the amateur football club FC Chooz in eastern France, which had refused to renew the contract of a gay player, Yoann Lemaire.

Footballer Yoann Lemaire, "sacked for being gay". Screenshot Yagg interview

A blatant example as far as many, including apparently the minister, that sports authorities in France are failing in their obligation to fight homophobia.

Lemaire had come out to team mates in 2009 after the club and the local mayor had signed the "Charter against homophobia".

The player said in an interview with the LGBT site Yagg that after coming out he had received the support of both his team mates and club officials.

"The season went really well (for me)," he said.

"There weren't really any problems."



But events took a less pleasant turn when new players were recruited, and one in particular insulted him during training sessions and made national headlines after making homophobic comments directed at Lemaire during an interview in front of the television cameras.

The player was reprimanded, Lemaire received his excuses on behalf of the club and the story seemed to "disappear".

Until last week that is, when Lemaire discovered that his contract was not being renewed because, in the words of a letter he received from the club's president Frédéric Coquet, it was a way of "avoiding further incidents."

Effectively, as many saw it, Lemaire had been sacked because the club and the local league had been unwilling or unable to deal with homophobia in sport and football in particular.

Yade didn't mince her words on Friday as she criticised the club and the local league.

"This kind of thing cannot be accepted," she told the news agency Agence France Presse.

"Even if the local football federation is simply a bystander in the affair, it's remains responsible for what's happening at the grass roots of the sport," she added.

"If it's proven that this is a case of homophobia, then it must be punished."

Friday, 3 September 2010

Liliane Bettencourt's "golden dildo" - the mystery explained

Yes it's another day in the life of the so-called "Bettencourt affair".

Not the one that has been keeping headlines writers in France busy over the summer with its claims and counterclaims of (amongst other things) tax evasion, political skulduggery, and an inheritance dispute with the country's richest women, Liliane Bettencourt at the heart of matters.

But the apparently more intriguing question as to why the 87-year-old had what appeared to be a "golden dildo" in the study of her home in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine.

For those of you who might have missed it, the said "phallus" can be seen in a photograph taken of Madame Bettencourt which accompanies an interview with her for this month's issue of the magazine, Capital.

The heiress to L'Oréal, the world's largest cosmetics and beauty company, and the principal shareholder is captured happily posing for the camera.

Everything seemed as it should be except for the presence of what many took to be a "golden dildo" nonchalantly sitting next to an "I love you" mug on the desk, a feature which quickly became an Internet buzz as the inevitable question was raised as to what it was doing there.



Happily though the "mystery" has been resolved, thanks to the magazine itself, which has responded to the "intense interest" by publishing an explanation on its website.

There were no shenanigans involved, Photoshop was not used and the sculpture really exists and was to be found exactly where it appeared in the shot.

It was, says the magazine which quotes an unnamed former employee as its source, "A present given to Liliane Bettencourt's late husband, André, by a friend and intended as a humorous reference to the couple's 'vigour' in spite of their age."

According to Capital, Madame Bettencourt never actually touched the souvenirs of her late husband but instead "instructed staff to store the item in a cupboard whenever visitors were around."

Somehow on the day of the shoot forgot to do so; in other words an innocent oversight.

So there you have it, the origin of the rather suggestive "statuette" explained, any allusions to what its purpose might otherwise have been, dispelled and the world can now go back to the real drama of the affair which has, in the words of a BBC report, "wafted a whiff of scandal over the government of the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy."

Thank goodness for that!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Liliane Bettencourt and the "golden dildo"

The so-called "Bettencourt affair" has been taking up more than its fair share of column inches and airtime both in France and abroad over the summer.

It's a complicated case by any stretch of the imagination, involving an inheritance dispute between the daughter of France's richest woman and her mother, political intrigue, accusations of corruption, claims of tax evasion - in fact you name it, and it has probably appeared in the headlines at some point over the past couple of months.

Now though, if it were possible, there's a twist in the tale.

It might not have very much to do with any of the above, but it has certainly caught the imagination of many, has brought a somewhat "lighter" touch to the proceedings and has created that all-too-frequently seen Internet buzz.

At the heart of the so-called "affair" of course has been Liliane Bettencourt, France's richest woman and the principal shareholder of L'Oréal, the world's largest cosmetics and beauty company.

Recently the 87-year-old posed for a photograph to accompany an interview with her in an issue of the magazine Capital.



The shot was taken at one of her homes, in the swanky Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine.

The setting is all very "proper" and entirely appropriate it would appear, as Yann Barthes, the presenter of Le Petit Journal, told viewers on Tuesday.

It's a segment of the daily evening magazine Le Grand Journal on Canal + and takes a somewhat irreverent look at what's making the news.

As Barthes explained, at first glance everything appears to be 'normal' in the photograph.

Madame Bettencourt is to be seen standing in front of bookshelves - "a totally normal setting," said Barthes.

"A lamp on the table - normal," he continued.

"And next to the lamp, a mug with the inscription 'I love you' - once again normal."

But then as Barthes and many others have noticed, sitting there next to the mug and clearly visible in the picture is....what can surely only be described in polite terms as a giant golden dildo.

Photoshop or a work of art?

Cybernauts are divided but the Net is a-buzz and it's surely yet another "affair" to be followed.


La bite/gode en or de Mme Bettencourt
envoyé par sebyrollins. - Regardez plus de vidéos comiques.

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.
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