The story of the Hinault photo

Seyne Sur Mer Hinault manifestation

Last week’s look at the history of Paris-Nice proved a popular read and the photo of Bernard Hinault taking a swing was a talking point in the comments.

Like all images it captures a moment on camera but it was only one instant in the day and there’s a whole story behind the picture. And video footage too.

The date is 12 March 1984 and the fifth stage of Paris-Nice takes the race from Miramas to La Seyne-sur-Mer. The day began with Scottish rider Robert Millar in the overall lead. But on the descent of the Col de l’Espigoulier Hinault attacks and a move of about 20 riders goes clear without Millar. As Hinault drives the break on he finds the road blocked by protesting workers and union staff from a nearby shipyard.

Hinault barely brakes and deliberately ploughs into the banner-waving crowd, falling to the ground. He gets up and finds the nearest protester and lashes out with his right fist. He connects but only with the shoulder of his target. The struggle continues and Hinault, in his cycling shoes, takes a wobble.

The police are there and finally things calm down. Hinault talked of quitting the race but decided to continue. The race was restarted with the breakaway given a head-start over the bunch equal to its lead prior to the incident. They reach the finish and Eddy Plankaert wins ahead of Sean Kelly and Hinault. Kelly takes the overall lead on his way to winning the race overall, one of his seven victories. You can see the video footage of the incident for yourself here.

The clip comes from the evening news on Antenne 2 and the day’s broadcast opens with the story from the race. “Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. A lively stage in the Paris-Nice race. We were waiting for sport and got a boxing match when the workers of the La Ciotat shipyard interrupted the fifth stage.

Protesters in France have long tried to hijack bike races, a visible means to raise the profile of their campaign. The clip above makes reference to others doing the same. These days the police and organisers are more alert and often a bargain is agreed to let the protesters threaten a blockage only for the race to pass by with the cameras dwelling on the banner-waving activists.

Wider history
There’s no information on the protesters. The shipyard in question underwent large scale restructuring in 1982 before shipbuilding stopped for good in 1988. The yards are still used for the repair and service of boats.

Hinault is a five time winner of the Tour de France. Today he works for Tour de France organisers ASO and is often spotted as a sort of master of ceremony on the podium where his combat skills have been deployed several times. He’s been what the French term a “Gentleman Farmer” raising cattle in his native Brittany but sold the farm a few years ago.

Sean Kelly went on to win the race several times and today has several roles including co-commentator on Eurosport’s English language service.

The Antenne 2 report from the race is by Lionel Chamoulaud who is a sports presenter for the same channel, now known as France 2.

22 thoughts on “The story of the Hinault photo”

  1. Brilliant research, Inrng!
    So the guy attacked downhill, by surprise, and caught poor Millar unprepared… That’s the spirit. Andy Schleck could take a cue. 🙂
    By the way, I have heard the story that Hinault actually began cycling, as a kid, in order to be able to attend fist-fights in neighbouring villages. Hard to believe, but could be..

  2. Great bit! The Badger was one of my first cycling heroes, right up there with LeMond. On an entirely different subject, do you know anyone currently working with the pro teams as a tech? Saturday on the Strade Bianche coverage and again today on Paris-Nice, it seemed that mechanics or riders were UNSCREWING the skewers to get ’em open enough to clear the so-called “safety tabs” so they could replace the front wheels due to flat tires. Can this be true? Tullio Campagnolo’s wonderful invention neutered by some silly rule or regulation? If this is true, what’s next, training wheels? In a cycling career that spans more than 25 years, with most of that turning a wrench on high-end bicycles I’ve yet to see a skewer fail and allow the wheel to fall away. I routinely (and with perverted joy) file those tabs off and thought all the pro teams did as well. But now? I remember reading something about this awhile back but thought it HAD to be a mistake, the pro’s would never put up with it.

  3. Hinault was one of the few professional cyclists who could feasibly start throwing punches at shipyard workers without ending up in a hospital.

  4. Great video find. So Hinault sees the protest, plows in, and is then upset that he crashes, while everyone else manages to stop… priceless. I also enjoyed the footage of him playing presentation bouncer. What do Hinault and Captain Kirk have in common? Fisticuffs!

    Larry T, I saw/thought the same thing on the Strade Bianche race, but then noticed it was a Vittoria Neutral Support car doing the exchange. It could be lawyer tabs interfering, or it could just be that the mechanic needed to make an adjustment, as it was a neutral wheel rather than a team mechanic already having the spacing dialed in to his team bike. Long gone are the days when everyone used Campy dropouts…

  5. Slaying the Badger was enough to make me greatly admire Bernard Hinault but watching this video increases the admiration even more. He’s what every sportsman should aspire to be, a fighter in the field and a gentleman off it

  6. Thanks Inrg, I KNEW I’d read that somewhere, but this was the first time I’d seen it on TV. T-R – they did it today in Paris-Nice and I think it was Cunego trading a wheel with another Lampre guy so it wasn’t because they’re French or because the dropouts weren’t the same. I don’t remember who it was in Tuscany but it would seem more teams are having to fool around with this s__t. I would love to hear from someone out there who is a pal of someone working for pro teams at present to confirm (if they will since this could be a legal issue?) whether they still file these annoying things off. I’ll leave it at that rather than stir up a hornet’s nest with the folks who think cyclists should be protected from themselves by this gizmos as I think it’s ONLY about bike makers protecting themselves from stupid or careless bike owners.

  7. Back in 1976 I raced in Yffiniac (Hinault’s home) finished 3rd but also won a prime of 1/2 doz bottles of cider, I did not get back chez moi until after midnight, the water had been turned off ,(summer of 76 there was a drought so water supply was limited) what could I do? I had a stonking headache the next morning !

  8. Larry T. I worked for a company that sold a lot of self assembly bikes, quite often the customer would ignore the build instructions and the QR entirely and remove and try and use the thin cone locknuts to secure the front wheel then realise that the axle was too short to permit this, that’s when they would come back to us. Many many people can’t handle the simplest mechanical task! The comment of an ex collegue comes to mind. “We thought we had made it foolproof but you have just proved us wrong” 🙂

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  10. bikecellar – I worked in bike retail for a long time so I’m VERY familiar with idiots. But pros in the peloton (riders and mechanics) are a different issue and I would simply like to know if they’ve now been lumped in with the common fools, either by law or some other regulation when it comes to front wheel security.

  11. In mountain biking, there have been a number of incidents of front QRs coming undone. I had one come loose once and the tabs saved me. Fortunately, I was climbing at the time. It’s something to do with a tiny amount of stretch in the rod allowing the nut to gradually loosen. Some aftermarket QRs were more prone to this than others. It’s not necessarily cack-handed mechanicking.

    I know of one rider whose front wheel fell out at high speed on a rocky descent, causing a catastrophic spinal injury. There was a fairly well publicised legal claim against the fork manufacturer, Fox, in relation to the design of the drop-outs. The case went to trial with engineering and metallurgy experts on both sides. One peice of evidence was a Fox patent applicaton describing all the safety concerns about a traditional QR in vertical drop-outs. The claim was successful. The drop-outs on newer mountain bike forks are now a different shape.

    The big difference, however, is the use of disc-brakes and the different forces going through the hub and drop-out. The same issues might not apply to road bikes, but is it worth the chance though, for the sake of 5 seconds on a wheel change? If you’ve got a flat, you’re losing a fair bit of time anyway.

    For anyone interested, look up “Pinder v Fox”.

  12. Thanks America! Yet again, and don’t get me wrong I have a US passport as well as an Irish but the lawyer tabs originated in the US. You are more likely to find people over there going into bike shop with flat wheel and saying stuff like ‘my wheel is broken’ or ‘something is wrong, my wheel won’t go round’. You would have to be an absolute idiot without any common sense to have your front wheel pop out because you could not see your skewer was not closed properly. I almost did it once when I was young and dumb; I was rushing to get ready for a race, rode to the line, someone pointed it out, ha ha. But my wheel still didn’t come out! It’s like flying, how often do planes crash compared with car accidents? It’s completely pathetic to think this is necessary for safety.

  13. Gingerflash – MTB’s with disc brakes are totally different, the forces at work there were never considered by Caro Tullio. I’ve HEARD all kinds of wild stories but in 25+ years of wrenching for a living and riding for fun (don’t get those backwards!) have never SEEN this type of failure. Morons of course can do anything (Honda rotary lawn mowers sold in the USA used to carry a sticker warning against trying to use them as a hedge trimmer for example!) but pros racing at the highest level are another thing. I did see a wheel get changed on one of the broadcasts today without any obvious screwing around with the skewer, so the use of the “safety tabs” has not taken over…..YET.

  14. Hinault, the last of a breed. The only rider these days with that kind of gumption is probably Sven Nys…thinking of his attack on a heckling fan a couple of years ago.

  15. I had the great good fortune of riding with Hinault in one of the Tour cars on the day of the Alpe d’Huez stage in 1987. On the way up the Madeleine (I think) our way was blocked by a crowd of “eleveurs de montagne” protesting about imports of New Zealand lamb. Hinault was diplomacy personified and talked them off the road – not a punch thrown. What a disaster it would have been if they had halted that epic stage.

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