Paris, Fignon and Blondin

This won’t be the most read post of the year but hopefully it’ll sit quietly on the site to help those asking search engines for information.

Every few months a reader will email to ask where to find Laurent Fignon’s grave in Paris. There’s no grave, the double Tour de France winner died in 2010 and was cremated. His remains were placed in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, a tourist attraction for the graves of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf and more.

If you’re at a loose end in Paris the cemetery is worth a visit, a calm place in a busy city. It’s a tourist attraction with many famous people buried there, the list is too long but most people visit to see the tombs of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morisson and Edith Piaf although a range of celebrities, cultural figures and notable people from French history are buried there.

It’s not a select place, a pantheon of the great and the good. Laurent Fignon’s ashes probably weren’t placed there out of merit just that he was a Parisian and this is one of the city’s largest cemeteries. His presence is noted though and on a stroll through his was the only plaque with fresh flowers.

To visit: Fignon’s plaque is the the large Colombarium building, a repository for cremated remains… You’ll find the plaque on the ground level on the south-east side. It’s not hard to find with the pictorial tribute.

Fignon was quite the character as a rider and his biography, in French and English, makes for a good read.

Cycling writer Antoine Blondin was buried in Père Lachaise too. If you’re not familiar with him, he deserves a fuller mention on here someday. He was a playwright and author but enjoyed covering cycling and the Olympics for L’Equipe. It was said France’s sports newspaper became accepted reading in highbrow literary circles while Blondin was writing.

Blondin’s work can be impossible if not awkward to translate because it involves wordplay and frequent puns. When Tom Simpson took the yellow jersey in 1962, Blondin quips “Roule, Britannia” and peppers his piece with “Simpson Orient Express”, tea-drinking and the “maillot John” while Jacques Anquetil’s team are riding under the “Union Jacques”. That’s merely one example and like explaining a joke, dissecting the text takes the spontaneity away. Blondin wrote daily during the Tour. Best of all he’s not building the prose around the jokes nor crow-barring them into place for a laugh. You can read Blondin’s Tour de France chronicles as a series of jokes but his observations are often much more profound.

You’ll find his tomb in the 74th division near the Chemin Léger path and almost next to the perimeter wall, a flat, horizontal tomb with the granite plaque above.

25 thoughts on “Paris, Fignon and Blondin”

  1. I miss personalities in the peloton such as Fignon, LeMond, Kelly, Delgado, Millar, Bauer, Planckaert, Vanderaerden, Roche etc…so lacking today…

    • ‘Nothing is as good as it used to be, and it never was. The ‘golden age of sports,’ the golden age of anything, is the age of everyone’s childhood.’
      Ken Dryden, NHL goalie, lawyer, Member of Parliament, author.

      • I’d argue that. I think there are plenty of folks who could point out a period when various sports were at their highest popularity, competitiveness, etc. and it wouldn’t always be during their childhood. But of course one has to be old enough to have a perspective, that’s why I laugh at “Best of All Time” lists which seem to extend back only a decade or two. Far too many think nothing much happened in the sport until they started paying attention to it. I applaud guys like Wiggins, who pay attention to the history of cycling.

        • I’ll bet most bike fans regard the era that caught their imagination and interest as ” the golden age” whether that was Eddy v Pou pou, Greg v Bernard or ( shudder) Lance v Jan etc. It probably isn’t the age of the fan, but the novelty of discovering and appreciating the sport for the first time, before the warts become visible that denotes a sports golden age. Those of us that are still fans after two or three generations of stars, long after the initial crush has faded do have a little more perspective than the newbies, but weren’t we all that guy or girl at one time?

      • I like that saying, its sometimes difficult to remember that “Now” are that times that make the vintage years the youngsters will look back on!

        At work I think its tough at the moment …. but the youngsters are making memories

  2. Fignon is sorely missed – his book is an excellent read. Shame he’s remembered more for the race he lost (to Lemond in ’89) than the races he won. I remember hearing on the radio he’d lost by 8 seconds and I was gutted – if nothing else because I was waiting to watch it on Channel 4 that night…. I also remember how happy I was when my parents bought me a Super U cycling top from the supermarket on holiday in France in the late 80’s – and how happy I was three years ago when my wife bought me a Systeme U top from Prendas for Christmas!

  3. I wonder how many readers know the story of the photo above showing the misfortune Laurent Fignon suffered in the 1982 edition of Paris-Tours. That might one worth telling someday.

  4. One of the main reasons I read this blog and comment here is your own wordplay and literary flourishes. This might not be the most polished cycling blog on the internet but it has the most stylish prose, and I thank you for that.

  5. I heard recently that Fignon’s centre for sporting excellence nestled in the Pyrenees had recently closed down. Such a sad end to a place the French should be supporting not just because of the reletive benefits to the people and culture in the south.

  6. Laurent Fignon provided one of my most favourite racing shots, he is photographed from motorcycle with Charlie Mottet hung on his rear wheel doing some insane flat speed. Sadly I am too technically inept to provide a pic link.

  7. Fignon was one of the Gods when I was a teenager. I recall sitting in a cafe in my sweaty kit with a bunch of juniors in L’Escala in Catalonia after a training ride crowding around a TV for that fateful time trial in Paris with Lemond. I cheered for Lemond that day with his flashy kit and fancy TT bike. It’s funny how one grows older that Fignon now appeals more to me?

    Thanks for the post.

  8. My abiding memory of “Larry” was watching his spectacular win wearing the Maglia Rosa in La Spezia in the 1989 Giro. A very select group of “heads” including Phil Anderson in the blue intergiro jersey, Moser etc flew down the terrifying descent to the coast to imperious win by Fignon. Awesome racing. After the Giro it looked like Fignon would dominate the season…

  9. Love this Fignon quote:

    “I love life, I love a good laugh, travel, books, good food. I’m a typical Frenchman. I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to die.”

  10. Thanks for posting this. In a small way, its a powerful reminder of our mortality. After all the triumphs and drama of his life, Fignon is now gone and only memories remain.

  11. Totally unrelated to this post, but I was just avoiding work by reading early Inrng entries and came across this one . In light of this year’s Tour, if nothing else, I believe a hearty ‘chapeau’ is in order for the excellent crystal ball skills.

    (and yes, I know that picking ‘ones to watch’ is as much luck as judgement, but you provide so many people with so much pleasure that it seems churlish not to celebrate you wherever possible.)

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