With -7 and a Siberian wind, cycling to work. For many of us, the same fate befell. But fortunately we compensate by dressing warmly. Just imagine riding in bicycle races with those conditions... I wouldn’t want to have to do that! Would you? Well, 38 years ago they thought differently. And the cyclist Bernard Hinault was one of them.
20 April 1980; it is cold, very cold... 174 riders are ready at the start of 'La Doyenne' (better known as Liège-Bastogne-Liège), and one of them is Hinault. He is in a bad mood and really just wants to sit at home in front of the fireplace. And he is not the only one who thinks so. But what he and 21 other riders just don't realise yet is that they will be the only finishers in the race.
The 67th edition of 'La Doyenne' will go down in history as one of the most memorable, heroic and especially coldest editions ever. Below you’ll find a short summary on why.
THE LONE RIDER
At the start of the race it started to rain, but that soon turned into a real snowstorm. After about 12 kilometres, the first riders already gave up. And that is only a small percentage of the total in this stage. Hinault was also cold, you could say freezing cold. To warm up, he accelerated on the climb near Stockeu. He rode away from his teammates and the two minutes gap to Pevenage was quickly made up.
Before he knew it, he had passed Pevenage. He was now alone in the lead. His hands were frozen to the handlebars, he didn't feel the cold and his knees were going like crazy. It was as if his body had acquired a will of its own. But despite the blinding snowflakes, he could see one thing only too well: the finishing line.
Whether this ride was worth it is doubtful. Of course, this result established him as the ultimate legend and he finished with a 10-minute gap on Hennie Kuiper, who had claimed second place, but only after three weeks he was able to use his frozen fingers again, and to this day, two of his fingers are still numb. His knees have also sustained permanent damage.
IN THE SHADOW OF MERCKX
This permanent damage that he had suffered was not the worst of it. Hinault wanted to become the greatest cyclist ever. Despite all his victories, he was only in the shadow of Eddy Merckx. The Tour of '86 was the moment to come out of that shadow. Both riders had five Tour victories to their name and this was Hinault's chance to become the first rider ever to claim six overall victories. "I could have beaten that Belgian," Hinault said. Unfortunately he lost this battle against Merckx. But when did he really lose?
Back to 20 April 1980. The heavy acceleration together with the freezing cold had put too much strain on his knees. His willpower brought him to victory, but made him lose just as hard.
Are you a big fan of cycling, just like us? Then be sure to keep an eye on our blog. We regularly post new stories about cycling facts, noteworthy events and updates to our product range which are definitely worth reading! The Renault jersey in which Hinault crossed the finish line is available in our online shop. Also the jersey, outfit and fleece jacket of La Vie Claire for which Hinault rode are available in our shop!