Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France, by cycling journalist Richard Moore, is a fascinating look at one of the most intrigue-filled Tours ever. I have to admit that I knew next to nothing about this amazing story, simply because I didn’t really know that professional cycling really existed in 1986, but I’m glad I do now.
The book’s central tale is about this Tour de France that split a team in two and pitted polar-opposites, (and teammates!) American Greg Lemond and Frenchman Bernard Hinault, against each other. It all revolves around a promise Hinault had made at the end of the 1985 Tour – a Tour which he couldn’t have won without his loyal teammate’s help (Lemond of course). The promise, caught on film more than once, goes like this: “since Greg helped me win this year, I will work for him in 1986”.
Well, guess what? Life’s not that simple apparently and once Hinault started his final Tour (he had proclaimed that 1986 would be his last many years before) his idea of ‘help’ took on a whole different definition.
The book is based on lengthy interviews with both protagonists, plus a large supporting cast (including the one cyclist I did know in 1986…fellow Canadian Steave Bauer) and makes for a very balanced account, I think. It also serves as a decent biography of two men who, between them, won 8 Tours de France, since the first half of the book is devoted to background on both of them.
The book is well written and details a time when riders definitely had more panache than they do today. The descriptions of The Badger’s (Hinault) suicidal (actually, mostly homicidal) attacks are worth the price of the book alone!
(Special thanks to Le Grimpeur for recommending this book to me)