Friends and family of Laurent Fignon said their final goodbyes on Friday as the French cycling great was laid to rest in a Paris crematorium. The two-time Tour de France winner succumbed to cancer earlier this week at the age of 50.
His family announced that in lieu of flowers it would appreciate donations to the ICM Institute, a Paris research facility specializing in brain and spinal cord disorders.
The funeral was attended by some of cycling's elites, including Bernard Hinualt, Sean Kelly, Alain Gallopin, and Alain Bondue. Christian Prudhomme represented the Tour de France.
“Up until the end he did not think he would die,” his wife Valerie told the French newspaper Le Parisien. “We knew it was fatal. But we believed …. and he was so strong.”
Fignon's cancer was first diagnosed in the spring of 2009. He continued his work commentating on the Tour de France for French television this summer. The day after the Tour ended, he suffered a pleural effusion, which is excess fluid in the area of the lungs. “The effusion could not be stopped and the metastases spread very, very quickly,” Valerie said.
The Fignons were together for 10 years and married for two and a half years. “I did not know the champion,” his widow said. “I met him after that. I really feel there were two Laurent Fignon – the cyclist and the one whose life came afterwards.
“He was natural, he was in love, generous. And a little grumpy, as everyone knows. He was a good husband, someone you could really count on. I spent many very, very good moments with him. I will miss him,” Valerie Fignon concluded.
His family has said that those who wish to remember the late cyclist could make donations to the ICM Institute, a French organisation that says of itself, “The goal of the ICM - Brain and Spine Institute, is to support the development of research on the brain and spinal cord, in any way possible.”
Donations can be made online at www.icm-institute.org or by check payable to ICM, CHU Pitié-Salpêtrière, Bâtiment Paul-Castaigne, 47-83 Boulevard de l'Hôpital 75561 Paris Cedex 13.