Laurent Fignon versus Greg LeMond. Who hasn't heard about the now infamous showdown between the Frenchman and the American on the Champs-Elysées on July 23, 1989, where Fignon saw his 50-second lead evaporate in only 29 kilometres of time trial racing? The two had swapped the lead several times during the three-week race, with the American coming out on top in the end by eight seconds.
Laurent Fignon now works for French television channel France 2 as a commentator and Greg LeMond stopped by for a casual visit yesterday, saying it took him one hour of listening to the prologue coverage to figure out that the voice belonged to his former teammate in the Renault team. LeMond had ridden L'Etape du Tour with his son Geoffrey, an annual event organized by French cycling mag Vélo magazine, where recreational riders and non-racers can test themselves on the same route as the professionals (this year's edition followed the route of stage 15 to Loudenville)
As the two sat next to each other and watched the replay of that time trial on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Paris almost twenty years ago they avoided looking at each other. Fignon forced a smile, but it was clear that the day is still haunting him, despite saying otherwise. LeMond revealed, though that the two played golf "about seven or eight years ago and [I] realized that we both won that day. Eight seconds? It's nothing," said the American, talking in French during the live broadcast.
The only thing that made LeMond smile over the years is that Fignon didn't "use the [time trial] bars." He pointed out that it was [Cyril] Guimard that brought all the aerodynamics, including wheels, to Renault. "I think it was Guimard who decided that day Fignon wouldn't be able to breathe [with the aero bars restricting breathing]," the American continued. He was certain that "if he [Fignon] would have used that aero equipment he would have beaten me, that's for sure."
Fignon replied that "it was nice of Greg to say that, but the truth is we both used our weapons. I was slightly stronger in the mountains, he was a better time trialist. And the difference was eight seconds, voilà". Fignon elaborated that the pain has fortunately vanished over the years. "That's the sport. Someone wins and someone loses." And when they play golf they talk about other stuff.
Lemond's bet with his son riding the 196-kilometre long L'Etape du Tour pushed him to the limits so that "I was more tired than in any stage of the Tour."
At the end the host gave a present to both; Fignon received a book about the history of the Dauphiné Libéré, LeMond about the "Cols Mythique du Tour de France." There was no way they wanted to remind Fignon about the Tour anymore, who has since shed his un-aerodynamic pony tail.