Fignon, one year already

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Laurent Fignon

Laurent Fignon passed away one year ago today. A talented and exciting rider, the Frenchman would go from the neo-pro shown above to win grand tours and classics alike. For me his free thinking and straight talking set him apart, he was much more than a successful racer.

If you’re unfamiliar with him, his autobiography is a great read. “Nous ├ętions jeunes et insouciants” (“We were young and carefree”) is available in French and and English translation.

Un homme atypique.

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{ 10 comments }

Starr August 31, 2011 at 1:08 pm

I’ve been meaning to read that book.
The title alone says it all, about how the sport was during his era.

jackseph August 31, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Fignon’s book is interesting, but I think you might want to read cyclinginquisition for an alternative view on Fignon. A great rider, no doubt, but also a racist who victimised Colombian riders.

Sam August 31, 2011 at 2:42 pm

I just finished reading his book today, fantastic read, would definitely recommend it.

dexxbot August 31, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Much as I admired fignon as a rider I would not agree that We Were Young and Carefree – in English translation, at least – is a “great read”. I would actually say that it’s close to the top of the (quite lengthy) list ‘awful cycling-related books I truly wish I’d never spent several hours of my life reading’, that I keep meaning to put up on Amazon. Certainly there is more fun to be had just by looking at the hilarious photo you’ve posted above!

Raouligan August 31, 2011 at 9:37 pm

A great read a true giant of the sport, the Colombian comments by Fignon were pretty much sympathetic of the time similar comments were made against Eastern Europeans who moved to the pro peloton. Don’t forget that it was pretty much a traditionally closed European shop and the incomers were bought in by team bosses who’d see limited results pay them very badly and house them in even worse conditions hence the very few Colombians who made it big properly in Europe.

ChrisO August 31, 2011 at 11:21 pm

I’m actually in the middle of Fignon’s book at the moment, and in the chapter where he mentions riding the 1984 Tour of Colombia he speaks highly of them and says they were true professionals ‘worthy of riding the biggest races in Europe’.

Clay Glad September 1, 2011 at 5:18 am

Jackseph, are you referring to the Cycling Inquisition interview with Rendell? Rendell calls Fignon Eurocentric (and I wonder what Frenchman of his age could not be so called), but not racist. And even so he omits the complimentary things Fignon says in his book about the Columbians as riders and as people.

But what is utterly ridiculous about this interview is that it is supposed to explode the “myth” that Fignon was an intellectual. Rendell says, “He was praised as an intellectual because he came from Paris and wore glasses.” That’s nonsense. No one ever praised Fignon for being an intellectual. He earned a nickname for his appearance and because he was from Paris, but it was a nickname no one ever thought or meant to go beyond surface appearance. Rendell is once more disingenuous on this point. The first few chapters of Fignon’s book make it very, very clear that he was not an intellectual in any way at all.

cd September 1, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I’d have to agree w/ dexxbot that the English version isn’t a very good read. He could have some better editing.

bikecellar September 2, 2011 at 12:08 am

I read and enjoyed the book finding many threads that struck a cord with myself personally, chronologicaly it fits in between Jean Bobet’s Tomorrow, We Ride… Joe Parkins A Dog in a Hat and more recently David Miller’s Racing Through The Dark, as a record of the gritty reality of pro racing. Compare these books to the first cycling book I ever read at 18/19 yrs old which was Tom Simpson’s Cycling Is My Life, telling it like it is it did not, and how tragic that title turned out to be.

jackseph September 3, 2011 at 7:57 am

Clay Glad,

My references to Fignon’s racism were not limited to comments by Matt Rendell on the cyclinginquisition blog.

I read “We were Young and Carefree” and saw that Fignon spoke quite well in it about Colombian riders, but maybe that was just with the benifit of hindsight and a realisation that he would not get away with the type of attitiude he displayed in the 1980′s, particularly as he had become a TV commentator.

I am paraphrasing here, but through various posts and interviews in cyclinginquisition, as well as Lucho / Klaus’ translations of Colombian pro’s accounts of their tour experiences with Fignon, the general consensus is that he picked on Colombian riders, was racist towards them and they retaliated appropriately, attacking him on climbs and making him chase, even if there was no benifit for them, time wise.

As for Fignon’s racism somehow being less unacceptable because all Frenchmen were “eurocentric” at the time, Hinault shouting “Cocaine” at Colombian riders does not lessen anyone elses attacks. It just shows that The Badger was (and maybe still is) also a biggot too.

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