1989 Tour de France Info Request

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Remember 1989? If so maybe you can help as this is a request for info and documents about the 1989 Tour de France, especially for articles and analysis leading up to the race. Many say the 1989 edition was the best ever, a subjective claim but it does seem to have been a vintage edition with plenty of action along the way and suspense that lasted until the end.

The world wide web was invented in 1989. The Gameboy and Tetris were launched. Kaoma’s Lambada was the best selling single in France and Milli Vanilli topped the charts around the world with several singles. Less frivolously 300,000 miners went on strike in Siberia, Poland had its first elections, hundreds of protestors were killed in Tiananmen square and Iranian revolutionary Ayatollah Khomeini died.

Meanwhile in pro cycling Soviet riders were allowed to turn pro in the West. Donald Trump, described as “real estate promoter and organiser of boxing matches” in the French press, was making the Eurocentric peloton get dollar signs in their eyes with his Tour de Trump as a vehicle for the sport to crack America after the Société du Tour de France, better known as ASO today, failed in scandal but they were rapidly going from family business to multinational, bringing in the likes of Coca Cola to sponsor the Tour de France and new for 1989, Fiat became the official vehicle of the race.

A young Spaniard called Miguel Indurain wins Paris-Nice ahead of Stephen Roche. The Spaniard with “shoulders the size of a Norman wardrobe” didn’t win a stage along the way but takes his first important general classification win. Roche looks back to his best days, winning the Col d’Eze time trial, running Indurain close and the Irishman is only four seconds off his PB from 1987, his annus mirabilis. Indurain sees Paris-Nice as prep for the upcoming Vuelta a España to be held the following month where he’ll work for his Reynolds team captain Pedro Delgado. Delgado needs a big win to change the story following a doping controversy over his win in the previous year’s Tour de France and he gets it with a convincing victory in Madrid.

Meanwhile Laurent Fignon is putting years of injury behind him in Italy, winning Milan-Sanremo and then the Giro d’Italia and finishes the race declaring “I’m not finishing tired and if I can stay healthy I’ll be even stronger for the Tour de France“. Another rider with a string of injuries is Greg LeMond and he too rides the Giro and finishes a surprise second to Lech Piasecki in the final stage, a 54km time trial around Florence. In hindsight this was crucial to future events but at the time it is treated as anecdotal. Promising Dutchman Eric Breukink vows revenge in July after cracking during the Giro.

In June Charly Mottet is a convincing winner of the Dauphiné Libéré race ahead of Robert Millar who is the best climber and shows it winning at La Bastille above Grenoble but the Scot struggles on the descents. Still Millar, apparently a late signing by Roger Legeay, saves his Z team which has been struggling until now. Z Teammate Jérôme Simon goes on to win the Midi-Libre race. In Spain Gert-Jan Theunisse wins the Vuelta a Asturias after dominating the main stage across five mountain passes.

It all bodes well for the Tour de France which has a promising route starting in Luxembourg and then crossing the Ardennes to reach France via some pavé and then arcing down to the Pyreenes where local newspaper says two “ultra short” stages await. There’s variety in the Alps including Alpe d’Huez and a lively 91.5km mountain stage to Villard-de-Lans, all before the final time trial between Versailles and Paris to commemorate the bicentenaire of the French revolution in 1789 which could be as decisive as the Dijon time trial in 1987… or as dull as Santenay in 1988 was?

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Many say the 1989 Tour de France was the greatest ever. With the above introduction there’s certainly a lot to look forward to on the eve of the 1989 Tour de France, a race without an obvious prime pick although hindsight bias probably counts for plenty in building our expectations ahead of the race. “Greatest ever”? that’s subjective and personal, there’s no definitive answer. But I want to find out more because a lot of the race is condensed down into Pedro Delgado’s late show for the prologue at the start and the eight second victory margin at the finish.

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This is request for info and articles about the race from the time. So if you have any old newspapers from July 1989 whether L’Equipe or the International Herald Tribune, or magazines like Miroir de Cyclisme or Winning then I’d be very grateful for a scanned page by PDF or even just an anecdote from the time that helps put the race in context then please share by email or in the comments below. Even some adverts from the time, for example how much did a team-issue bike cost at the time in Francs, Lira or Pesetas? What did the Belgian media make of the ADR team and its owner François Lambert at the time, especially given the team’s shrinking from 40 riders to 20 for the 1989 season? What was the opinion of the Spanish media about Delgado’s 1988 positive-not-positive anti-doping test? That kind of thing and more rather than the more mechanical accounts, eg “[Rider X] attacked in [Location Y] to win [Stage N]” and so on but anything would be welcome.

This blog post is being typed from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, France’s national library, to gather press archives from the period. The idea is to explore the race and the 1989 season in more detail over the winter.

50 thoughts on “1989 Tour de France Info Request”

  1. I have a vague memory of another book based on the same tour – probably released around 6-7 years previous… although it could easily be a book focused around Fignon that I’m confusing.

    Good luck with the project – a little before my time, but I’ll ask around.

    P.s. INRNG should definitely write a book… (^_~)

  2. Geez, if only I’d heard about this a year ago. We’re in the process of moving (to Italy) so have been selling and giving away our cycling memorabilia including a bunch of stuff from the 1989 Tour. I was there, but now have only the personal photos I shot (back when it was film and you went down to the “1-Hour Photo” joint to see if any of your photos turned out) in various scrapbooks.
    I DO still have one of the plastic models of the Tour director’s car with the flashing lights and horn that plays – and it still works…but the rest of it’s now gone. 🙁

  3. Well mr. Ring, since you are hanging around a lot of important races you should try to get mr José De Cauwer to sit down with you for a chat. He was ADR’s directeur sportif at the time and is the race analyst/co-commenter for most of the major races on the Belgian (Flemish) national TV. I know you understand some dutch, there must be interviews floating around with him regarding that tour and especially of him taking the honours of introducing the tri-bars for the final time-trial.
    Also present at many races as analyst/co-commenter for National Radio is Frank Hoste (also race director of G-W), house-sprinter (former green jersy winner!) and road captain for ADR at that same tour.
    Anyways I’ll see if I can make Google come up with something useful in Dutch. As you implied, Belgians kind sorta like to claim that win 😉

    • I don’t get to many races but have seen De Cauwer of course on TV and social media too. I’ve seen interviews with him too since but trying to get impressions before the win, ie once LeMond had won it was amazing but what did De Cauwer say about him before? ADR seemed shocking in terms of budget and management, perhaps largely down to the sponsor but they won the Tour, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders (and by proxy the Worlds) in the space of two years.

  4. I was there for a high school graduation trip. Our group had a sit-down with Lemond after one of the Pyrenees stages when he lost the jersey but was still gracious enough to talk with a bunch of fellow Americans (and maybe a few Canadians). I have some photos I should dig up. I remember the stage Indurain soloed away to win as well. Still have a couple of hats from that tour and maybe a coke bidon tossed by an RMO rider. Wish I still had the Catch sprints hat. We also stayed in Lourdes which was weird.

    • In Spain, “El Mundo Deportivo” has its whole content online for free, spanning a century, and this paper always had very good cycling coverage. For Italy, I use “L’Unità”, and for Switzerland “L’Impartial”.

  5. What the Spanish press was writing about Delgado at the end of the 1989 Vuelta he had just won…
    Any previous doping question was forgotten: all the “polemica” was about Delgado having done a possible Vinokourov (recorded on TV) on the startline of the last, decisive mountain stage in the Sierra of Madrid; and about his decision to skip the Vuelta in favour of the Giro to better perform at the Tour the previous year.
    During July, you can find any sort of interesting Tour news, mainly about Delgado (obviously), browsing day by day. Like Delgado saying that he’s self-practising acupuncture following the instructions of a book he once read… and subsequently lost: in the category “acupuncture” he includes some “patches” he says he’s applying on his nose to breath better. I couldn’t find any photo which might prove he was doing an Aru or whatever.

  6. In February 1989, Dietrich Thurau was retiring and stating that “at the Tour de France not a single rider is drinking just fresh water”. He confessed he had been using amph3tamines, cortic0steroids, anabol1c st3roids… but “now it’s harder to cheat”. However, he says that cyclists take advantage of the substances “which aren’t included yet in the lists”. The newspaper article (the Italian La Repubblica) ends with just a couple of lines aimed to discredit the rider (IMHO), hinting that he had had a turbulent career, even being DSQd because of an altercation with a race commissaire, suggesting that he may be bearing a grudge against race organisers… (and no reference to his positive tests!)
    A month ago or so Peter Janssen was admitting that PDM was using blood transfusions in the 1988 Tour…

    I also found the Marca’s first page just after the Prologue; the Tour had the main three-column two-line title: a cocky “Perico les da ventaja”.

  7. I can’t seem to find your email, but I have access to the British Library (until mid-December) and a US academic library (which provides abundant access to US newspaper records). I found this listed at the BL and would be happy to try to track it down for you and see if I can take pictures. But I can’t find your email. (I’ll be leaving the UK in mid-December, but will be at the BL for about a week before I leave.)

      • I work from British Library regularly and have multiyear pass. If any of these books are relevant and I can be of any use once Jan’s time is up I’m more than happy help and will photograph bountiful pages to mail. I will email contact details if this comes to pass, apologies to not be able to offer anything more. Possibly worth considering BL newspaper and magazine archives also at Boston Spa Reading Room.

  8. Doh, sorry, I forgot to paste in what I found:

    • Title:
    Tour de France.
    • Other Titles: Variant Title: Tour de France guide
    Key Title: Tour de France
    • Subjects: France Bicycles Racing Races Tour de France Serials;
    Dewey: 796.620944
    • Rights: Terms governing use: Current Copyright Fee: GBP15.00
    • Publication Details: London : Winning, 1989-

  9. @inrng – have you got the Kennedy Brothers “Tour 89”?

    It’s one of a series that came out at that time (between about 1980-ish and1990), covers the Giro and the Tour over about 130 pages with photos. All the stage results, list of participants, classifications, with the two races described in considerable detail in the text.

    Authors are given as “Written by Pierre Martin, with contributions from Sergio Penazzo, Dante Baratino, Daniel Schamps and Cor Vos”.

    It was published in 1989, so it is an “immediate impression” so to speak, not a consideration at some remove.

    Can’t see an ISBN, but available on Amazon (Search “Tour 89 Pierre Martin”).

    Quite expensive now, but I have a copy that I could scan if useful?

    Tom J

  10. In the ‘if a picture is worth a thousand words” department YouTube has a selection for easy viewing. The videos are of varying length, quality and usefulness, but can be found here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVTtk3JMqoM Prologue

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HS2lM9P_bs Stage 1

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s90meplN3h0 Stage 10

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6_gDwVAWEs Stage 17

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AN7nj2gUi_Q Stage 18, Bourg-D’Oisans to Villard de Lans

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U05Xf3ZhAdQ Race summary 2:32:17

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIjmGWo9Nzs Superbagneres

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjZt3kleCb8 Alpe de Huez

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyvwtOQYQ-E Stage 21

    Fignon’s account of the race in “When We Were Young and Carefree” is compelling and informative, but probably old hat to those who follow this blog.

  11. In Fignon’s book, We Were Young and Carefree, there is a nice bit about the end of the Giro that spring, with Fignon winning. And his coach, Guimard, telling him at the end of the race in the midst of their celebration (and one day after the last TT) that “Lemond will be up there at the Tour.”

  12. Believe it or not, I and a few (hundred) scooterists from northern England / Scotland passed through the Ardennes and Luxembourg city and the Tour on the way to the first Euro Lambretta Jamboree at Strasbourg that Summer, via the ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge.
    The weather was poor and there was ne’er a Gendarme (or anyone else) to be seen when we drove past the parked team buses albeit quite late on a wet Luxembourg night.

    A little background reading if you’re interested –



    I wish I could have afforded a camera. Then onto Freiburg for a rally with some German Vespa clubs.
    Happy days.

  13. I, and a few (hundred) scooterists from northern England / Scotland passed the Tour through the Ardennes and Luxembourg that Summer, on our way via the Hull – Zeebrugge ferry to the Euro Lambretta Jamboree at Strasbourg.
    The weather was poor, and there was ne’er a gendarme to be seen (or anyone else) when we drove past the parked team buses on a wet night in Luxembourg city.
    It’s hard to believe now in these security conscious days.
    Yellow painted headlights and spicy gentleman’s magazines in the petrol station shops!


    • Got me thinking and reflecting, the ease of European travel today compared with back then. I remember a feeling of trepidation almost on the ferry, with the Zeebrugge ferry disaster fresh in the memory.
      And if Team Sky think they get a hard time on the Tour, the suspicion / ill-feeling towards young British in the late 80’s in Europe was palpable. A couple of camp sites turned us away, and an elderly Frenchman on the roadside even shouting “Les Hooligans” as we passed him.
      I’m afraid our Agincourt archer response probably only served to confirm his fears.

        • Sorry for the confusion but after dredging my memory from 30 years ago, and asking around, we’ll have encountered the vanguard of the Tour that year in Luxembourg, which would account for the low key state of affairs.
          But it was more just a reflection of a young Brit travelling in Europe in those days.

  14. I saw the final stage live on CBS television in the U.S. on the once per week weekend broadcast of the Tour de France–which was a big deal back in those days to see LIVE bicycle racing on TV. The presenter was John Tesh (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Tesh, @johntesh) who was a cycling fanatic and sports broadcaster. If you contact him, I’m sure he would have many interesting anecdotes and memories of that race.

    That last stage with Lemond in the primitive aero gear, and Fignon in his ponytails, with the final seconds counting down to Fignon’s loss of the lead, was truly epic, . . . and one of the most thrilling races I can recollect. The ongoing narrative between the two was quite funny, with Fignon constantly referring to Lemond as the “chicken,” because he wouldn’t put in an aggressive attack in the mountains despite Fignon’s continuous prodding. This was probably because Fignon knew he had the stronger team, and wanted Lemond to burn himself out before the final ITT, where it would be mano-a-mano. In the end, it was probably Lemond’s aero gear that psyched him out a bit, . . . as well as Lemond’s superior VOMax!

    • The 1989 Tour de France was indeed considered as the *most covered ever* by the media, mainly thanks to its rapidly grown *international scope*.

      22 TV broadcasters “from all over the world” were covering the event (now they’re more or less one hundred), as well as 70 radio networks (68 nowadays).
      15 of those 22 TV channels were in Europe, but let’s avoid being too picky.
      In UK it was “Canal Channel” (funny name).

      Reportedly, the U.S. exclusive “had been bought by ABC”, but it’s not clear if it was about live images as produced by France TV or just the “race reportage”, given that ABC had its own technical means, with motorbikes and trucks, to produce proprietary footage from the race. Same goes for NHK in Japan.
      Colombia also had two filming teams, besides broadcasting the official live footage from Antenne 2 (now France 2).
      The four other extra-European countries were Australia, Mexico, South Africa and Canada.
      A radio network even bought exclusive rights to broadcast in the USA the live commentary of the race in Spanish!

    • I’d agree… 1989 was important because of the huge world media exposure (for the time).
      Besides, both the Delgado story and the tiny final difference between LeMond and Fignon stroke the imagination.

      However, despite Delgado’s desperate attempts to get some time back, the race lacked serious action in several promising stages, essentially because both the main characters were afraid of each other, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, were understandably a little short of self-confidence, given the troubles they had gone through in previous years.

      A *very modern* course design in mountain stages made things even worse, significantly reducing selection in the last supposedly hard stages available in the Alps, which were way too short and easy; little could happen. Fignon really had already lost his opportunities (and the Tour) in the Pyrenées.
      LeMond and Fignon were trading blows, sure, and such a situation is always perceived as exciting, but they rarely were hard, all-in attacks, as it can be seen checking the difference to the other riders (obviously excluding TTs and the Alpe, where, anyway…).
      It makes me think, on a *very* different scale, of course, about the Menchov-Di Luca duel in the 2009 Giro: a good edition which had a lot of people being involved, excited and watching TV – yet, far from being as good as 2010 or 2015.
      The first half of the race was quite much negligible, if it wasn’t for Perico’s TT adventures and the relative surprise granted by the tri-bars (already on show at the Giro).
      The Spaniards reportedly made the Pyrenées good to watch, but despite the abundance of climbs, it all came to skirmishes on the last ascents among the top-placed GC men, with 5-10 riders of the “selected group” always coming in barely separated by half a minute.
      The Alpe d’Huez was good, too, but it’s well-known that the bunch had come together at the start of the last climb and that Fignon was extremely reluctant to attack, waiting far too much: however, this was indeed a very selective climb.

      For sure, it was a Tour about “things to come”: Leblanc had just entered the TdF direction and the plan was to “modernise” the sport, with a selected club of reduced sponsors paying way more money (but thus having more power over the race). The “it’s all about the Tour de France” obsession slowly started here, even if it needed Lance to become dominant in cycling.

      And, by the way, in 1989 PDM, which had been practising blood transfusions since the year before at least, placed 3 athletes in the final GC top 10.

  15. A regional Dutch newspaper has all its papers online: http://leiden.courant.nu/periodicals/LLC/1989. Just pic July 1 to July 23, day to day coverage of the Tour, with a health dose of chauvinism.

    I was living in Luxemburg at the time, and remember that Da Silva winning the first stage and taking the yellow jersey was celebrated big time as he lived there and was practically adopted there. It was considered impossible that such a small country could make an impact in the Tour de France these days…
    The Luxemburger Wort doesn’t seem to have an archive, this is the best I can find:
    I was also hunting autographs after the prologue, but Delgado refused to leave the team car… I couldn’t get my head around how one could get lost in the streets of Luxemburg city…

  16. I highly recommend this thread from a Spanish forum which presents the 1989 Tour de France gradually, as if it was happening day by day.

    It has a detailed presentation of the previous races, the course, the declarations of some favourites before the start and so on. The only problem is that it doesn’t always make clear what the sources are, although it’s mainly specialised Spanish press of back then.
    You also need to take care distinguishing the original material (normally in bold and quoted) from the comments of the readers who have fun commenting the race as if it was live.


  17. BTW, great news for SKY fans (http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/general-medical-council-to-look-into-ukad-evidence-but-not-jiffy-bag/). Not only SKY but also British Cycling has… “shortcomings” in the keeping of medical records thus no further investigation. SKY is clean, Wiggins “mr needle” is clean, Brailsford “the king of hypocrisy” is clean (and Froome never took TUE hahaha). What a disgusting picture of pro cycling… Anyone still want to criticize Armstrong??

  18. The whole thing about the aerobars deserves a mention. As you know if you read Fignon’s book, he was still adamant that they were illegal to use, and that was why noone else did use them. I can see why he felt like the moral winner, when LeMond using a vastly superior TT setup, only had an 8 second lead in the end. It does seem odd that they were allowed. And when Fignon showed up a few months later at a race with the aerobars, he was disqualified for using them. Seems like the world was out to get him 🙁

    • I believe that LeMond was 175 cm for a 67-68 kg racing weight (several sources have different figures, up to 178 cm, but a June 1990 “Boys’ Life” issue had Greg at 5’9″ and 155 lbs.: while weight could well be his “normal” training weight, I’d be surprised if they made of him a “smaller” hero than he really was).
      Delgado was 171 cm for 64-65 kg (not that “delgado”, really).
      Fignon was 174 cm for 67 kg.

  19. Fignon wasn’t disqualified from using the bars a few months later, he was not allowed to start. Big difference. He could have removed them in the starthouse. I was there and watched the whole thing. It was the GP Eddy Merckx. The UCI didn’t know what to make of the new aero technology and so provisionally – until a formal ruling was made – disallowed clip on bars as they were an ‘add-on’ strictly for aero benefit. They did however allow a one piece aero handlebar as it was a structural component of the bike,nothing added, just happened to be aerodynamic. I knew this because I called them – the UCI that is. System U ( Fignon’s team) could have done the same….Instead they showed up with a competitors brand of clip-one, I watched keenly as the head commissar had advised me earlier in the week that that set up would not be allowed. There was no bike check prior though, not in those days. Sure enough, disallowed with 2 minutes to go. I was working for Scott USA at the time and we set up Sean Yates (7-11) on the bars and he won. A week later, we set up Fignon and Thierry Marie on the one piece bar and they won the Barachhi trophy. One short test ride the morning of the race, they were believers and said yes, we’ll ride and they crushed it. No contract, no win bonus. Fun time to be working there . Wild West of handlebar development.

  20. I have access to a university library which has PDFs of numerous English language newspapers going back decades. I’ve had a cursory glance and there are a few little snippets that might be of interest. I will email them to you – let me know if this is the kind of thing you are keen on and I will try and dig out some more. Searching “tour de france” and limiting it to 1989 gets over 400 results.

  21. I remember watching it (delayed in US) when I live in Arizona. The coverage (probably NBC WWS) played the tension to its advantage.

    I have a complete copy if Winning Magazine’s special TDF edition for that year. Happy to scan it for you.

  22. I still have all newspapers from Het Nieuwsblad (in Dutch) and Wieler Revue Magazine and Vélo Magazine and most likely more. Will have a look at it next week.

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