In this extract from Slaying the Badger, Richard Moore writes that it was LeMond who did the dirty on Hinault during the 1986 Tour de France, not the other way round
‘In the midst of competition, Hinault attempted to snatch victory like a furious, clawing rodent . . . he acted not only for himself but for a nation horrified that its great race might be hijacked by an American outlaw.’ Rolling Stone, 1986
The stench was overpowering: a rotten, putrid smell, so bad that several riders looked around, their faces screwing up as though they were sucking on lemons. Glancing back, they saw Greg LeMond, fourth in line, being led up to the peloton – the main pack of riders – by a string of his La Vie Claire teammates.
Up the outside the four-man train continued, the three worker bees escorting their stricken leader back to the front, where, as one of the favourites, LeMond needed to be. But at least one rider, sitting towards the rear of the peloton, clocked the brown liquid streaking the insides of the American’s legs, running into his shoes.
It was a bad peach, LeMond reckoned. After eating it, his stomach reacted violently. He turned to a teammate: ‘Pass me your hat.’
‘What do you want my hat for?’
‘Please, just pass me the goddamn hat!’
Taking the small cotton team cap, LeMond shoved it down his shorts, manoeuvred it into positition, and filled it until it was over-flowing. He tried to clean himself up, but it was hopeless; then he tossed the hat into the hedgerow, and began the grim task of getting back into the race, slotting in behind the three teammates who’d dropped back from the peloton to wait for him.
With his stomach churning, LeMond had 60km of the stage to endure: more than an hour of agony, every second of it spent craving the isolation and privacy of a toilet. As the two hundred riders swarmed across the line in Futuroscope, most eased up, dropped a foot to the road, straddled their bike and reached for a drinking bottle. LeMond didn’t. He weaved urgently through all the bodies, the riders, soigneurs and reporters, searching for his team’s motorhome. He’d never been in it before – it was used mainly for storage – but he knew it had a toilet.
Entering the motorhome LeMond found it packed with boxes, but, tiptoeing awkwardly in his cleated cycling shoes, he negotiated a passage and ripped open the cubicle door. The toilet was gone. Where it had been, there were more boxes. LeMond was desperate. He tore off the lid of the largest box, inside which were thousands upon thousands of postcards. Staring up at him, on each of these cards, was the smiling, handsome face of his teammate, Bernard Hinault. But LeMond didn’t hesitate: he yanked at them, pulling out bundles of cards to create a borehole in the middle. Then he dropped his shorts, sat down and found glorious relief amid – and upon – approximately 40,000 depictions of the great Frenchman.
Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France by Richard Moore is out now.
Read more from Slaying the Badger
Read more Tour de France book extracts
A Race for Madmen: The birth of the Tour de France
A Race for Madmen: The first-ever Tour de France
A Race for Madmen: The birth of the famous Yellow Jersey
A Race for Madmen: The Tour de France goes into the mountains