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Fignon at the Tour de France despite battling cancer

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Laurent Fignon earlier this year.

Laurent Fignon earlier this year. (Image credit: AFP)
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Laurent Fignon back in the day.

Laurent Fignon back in the day. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Two-time Tour de France winner Laurent Fignon first revealed in June 2009 that he had been diagnosed with intestinal tract cancer. One year on, he is still fighting the disease but has refused to give up his role as a TV and radio commentator at this year’s Tour de France.

His voice has changed slightly but his insight and understanding of the racing are as perceptive as ever.

“A tumour compresses the nerves that make my right vocal fold work”, he explained to the Le Parisien newspaper. “I can only use the left vocal fold. That’s why I speak this way. It’s not going to improve by the end of the Tour but I hope the tumour will be reduced and I’ll get my voice back one day.”

Fignon commented on the prologue time trial in Rotterdam but wasn’t at the Tour de France on Sunday. There were rumours that he had been unable to continue commentating. But they were unfounded and he took part in the evening talk show on the Europe 1 radio show from his home in Paris. He returned to the race in Arenberg on Tuesday and commented on the action from the finish line, while Laurent Jalabert was on a motorbike in the peloton.

“That’s the deal with my employer: when I’m too tired and I can’t commentate, Jalabert comes to the studio at the finish line to take my spot,” Fignon said. “I’ll be back in the Alps, I’m going home for three days and I’ll be at the Tour again for all the Pyrenean stages. I try to avoid travelling by car. It makes me tired.”

Fignon started chemotherapy during last year’s Tour de France. In January his doctors realised the treatment wasn’t working as well as hoped and so Lance Armstrong helped organise an appointment in the USA with an oncologist after the two visited French president Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysées palace. Armstrong and Fignon have been close ever since Fignon invited the Texan to his home after he attended the Cofidis team presentation a few months after his own cancer treatment.

Fignon will turn 50 next month. Last year he published his autobiography called "Nous étions jeunes et insouciants" -"We were young and carefree". The book has recently been published in English.

“I don’t want to die at 50,” he said, revealing that he has instructed his doctors not tell him his chances of survival. “All I know is that my cancer isn’t evolving. I’m still fighting.”