BikeRaceInfo: Current and historical race results, plus interviews, bikes, travel, and cycling historyBikeRaceInfo: Current and historical race results, plus interviews, bikes, travel, and cycling history
Search our site:
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Email Newsletter

Remembering Laurent Fignon

By James Witherell, author of Bicycle History

James Witherell (who has forgotten more about bicycle history than I ever knew) has been kind enough to send me a biography of Laurent Fignon, who passed away in August, 2010. Once someone said to Fignon, "Ah, I remember you: you're the guy who lost the Tour by eight seconds." Fignon replied, "No monsieur, I'm the guy who won it twice."

Laurent Fignon

Laurent Fignon winning the final time trial in the 1983 Tour de France

If the reader has any interest in cycling history, James Witherell's "Bicycle History" is a terrific bicycle mini-encyclopedia. It's available both as a paperback and as a Kindle ebook. Just click on the Amazon link on the right.

Laurent Fignon photo gallery

Laurent Fignon was born in Paris on August 12, 1960. He grew up about 20 miles away in Tournan-en-Brie at a time before it was just another bedroom community near the City of Light, and still had some woods in which the youngster and his mates could play out their small adventures.

He wore his first pair of glasses at age six, but never considered bicycle racing until he was fifteen. Fignon’s initial races proved successful, and he joined the local club, La Pédale of Combs-la-Ville, in 1976.

Within a couple of years, the young Fignon’s fitness and racing savvy had progressed to the point where he won eighteen of the forty races he entered.

With little ambition to attend college or do any work, except for riding his bike, Fignon signed up for military service in October 1979. He was sent to the Joinville detachment, which catered to aspiring athletes—the same place were a young Jacques Anquetil had performed his military service, which included setting the hour record at 46.159 kilometers.

By 1981, Fignon was racing at the top amateur level; he was a member of the winning French national time trial team, and had won more than 30 races. At the Tour of Corsica, he got noticed by Cyrille Guimard, famous director of the powerful Renault professional team, and was signed to ride for them beginning next year. The contract was signed early in the morning of the final stage of the 1981 Tour de France.

Also agreeing to ride with the squad was Fignon’s friend from the amateur ranks, Pascal Jules. By signing with Renault, Fignon and Jules would find themselves riding alongside not only Bernard Hinault, who’d just claimed the third of his five Tour de France victories, but also with new hire Greg LeMond, who had just thumped a powerful Russian squad at the Coors Classic in Colorado. 

Fignon’s professional career got off to a very good start in 1982 when he won the Critérium International stage race, one of the first events he entered.  Based on his early-season performances, Fignon was selected to ride in the Giro d’Italia, where he wore the pink leader’s jersey for a day and finished a credible fifteenth.

Two weeks after finishing second to Beppe Saronni at the world championships in England, Fignon’s teammate Greg LeMond would win the Tour de l’Avenir by 10:18 over Robert Millar. Although he’d won three of the Avenir’s 11 stages, the American wouldn’t ride his first Tour de France until 1984.

In 1983 Fignon, then only a second-year pro, started the Tour de France as co-leader of the weakened Renault along with Marc Madiot. Missing from the team was Bernard Hinault, who had suffered a season-ending knee injury while winning the recent Vuelta a España (with is victory, the Badger had become the only rider to win each of the three grand tours twice).

During the tour’s tenth stage in the Pyrenees, Laurent Fignon finished seventh on the day, which moved him into second overall, 4:30 behind Peugeot’s Pascal Simon, who’d finished third to take the yellow jersey. Simon’s luck took a turn for the worse the very next day, when he crashed, suffering a hairline fracture of the collarbone. Unable to climb, Simon would continue on for five more stages in sweltering heat before abandoning during the seventeenth stage, where the lead passed to Fignon, who traded his young rider’s white jersey for the yellow one, which he later saved with in a furious chase of Peter Winnen up L’Alpe d’Huez in the company of Pedro Delgado and Lucien Van Impe.

Following the rest day Fignon defended his maillot jaune with a mighty effort, chasing back a dangerous group of escapees which included Spain’s Angel Arroyo. The young Frenchman then sewed up Tour by winning the twenty-first stage, the individual time trial in Dijon, where he covered fifty kilometers in 1:11:37.

Though Fignon had won a stage and joined a very select club of riders who’d won the Tour on their first try, the pundits were not impressed with the Frenchman’s ‘easy’ four-minute win over Arroyo; “wait till next year,” they said, when Hinault, who’d yet to be beaten in a major tour, would be back and LeMond (who would soon win both the world championship in Switzerland and the season-long Super Prestige Pernod Trophy) would be there.

Laurent Fignon, who’d just become the race’s second-youngest postwar winner at 22 years, 11 months, was not worried, and traded in his Renault for a Ferrari. Probably the only thing concerning him at the time was the wrath of his fiancée, Nathalie, who’d seen him dancing with another Parisian beauty on television.

After Greg LeMond’s win at the worlds that fall, Laurent Fignon demanded a salary of a million francs from Renault for the following season. Afraid that their Tour de France winner would take his considerable talent elsewhere, the team agreed to his demands.

In the spring of 1984, Laurent Fignon was the victim of a thief; he had the Giro stolen from him by what can only be described as a vast Italian conspiracy. First, race director Vicenzo Torriani removed the ascent of the Stelvio Pass—where Fignon had planned to gain the time he’d surely lose to Francesco Moser and his ‘funny bike’ in the following time trials—from the 18th stage. Moser’s technologically advanced machine, and a closely hovering helicopter that almost knocked Fignon over more than once combined to give the Italian victory in the final time trial, and ‘steal’ the Giro from the Frenchman.

Fignon, who was the new wearer of the French champion’s jersey, was now “armor-plated” following his loss in the Giro—and he showed up at the Tour with a new aerodynamic Gitane Delta bike for the time event’s trials. But going into the race he found himself in the same position as fellow Frenchmen Louison Bobet in 1954, and Bernard Hinault in 1979, who’d also had to prove that their first wins in the Grand Boucle were not due to a weak field of competitors.

Like his compatriots, Laurent Fignon would quickly stamp his authority on the race. Presence of the two French stars divided the loyalties of the country’s fans much as had the hard-fought battles between Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor two decades earlier; “In the passionate decade of the ‘80s,” wrote one historian, “[Fignon] offered an alternative to those who did appreciate Bernard Hinault’s ‘character.’”

Behind Colombian stage winner Lucho Herrera, Fignon dropped Hinault on L’Alpe d’Huez to take the yellow jersey from his teammate Vincent Barteau.  Before the stage Fignon’s young American teammate, LeMond, had declared that “Fignon is above the rest of us.” Not even four-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault, who’d recently left Renault to lead Bernard Tapie’s new La Vie Claire team, could hold a candle to him this year.

As was his style, the Badger attacked everywhere; he was determined, win or lose, to ride the tour with his characteristic panache. At the bottom of L’Alpe d’Huez, Fignon had found Hinault’s all-out, aggressive style amusing, and started laughing—out loud. Later that afternoon, he told reporter Jacques Chancel on French television, “When I saw him going up the road like that, I had to laugh.” The comment only served to strengthen support among the French people for Hinault, who actually seemed to be unbothered by the remark. Twenty five years later Fignon would write in his autobiography that he had meant no disrespect toward the Badger, he was only saying what was on his mind at the time.

“I had absolutely no intention of being disrespectful,” he wrote, “rather the opposite. Why would I have wanted to do that, to him of all people? Hinault, a man of honor, had understood exactly what I meant, and he never made anything out of it.” In a single interview Laurent Fignon had done what many had thought was once impossible; turn Bernard Hinault into a sympathetic figure. 

Though Fignon offered his countrymen an alternative to Hinault, “the Professor,” as the blond, bespectacled rider had become known, was not always easy to like; he treated his teammates like the domestiques they were, “They are paid to ride for me,” he said, “not be my friends.” The only exception was Pascal Jules, who had started with Renault the same year Fignon had.

“He was respected in the pack,” one historian would later write, “and, at his peak, he was feared, not admired.”

“My shape is such,” declared Fignon, “that I can ride at the maximum without risks. Racing in these conditions is enchanting.” Some reporters were comparing his domination of the race to performances of Fausto Coppi and Eddy Merckx.

But not everyone was convinced that the Professor’s ‘shape’ had come solely from hard training. Late in the race, five-time winner Jacques Anquetil wrote in his column, “Nothing explains Fignon’s progress in the last twelve months,” implying that Fignon, who’d won five stages of the race, was ‘preparing’ himself in ways that were less than legal.

Fignon’s victory was Cyrille Guimard’s seventh win as team manager in nine years, and things looked good for Renault’s future with LeMond climbing from eighth to third during the final week to take the white jersey of the race’s best young rider.

In the end, Laurent Fignon ended up winning five stages and beating Bernard Hinault by ten minutes. “I lost,” said the Badger, “but that’s the game. I bet everything, but that’s cycling. This year I ran into a super Fignon.  Next year, who knows.” It would be Laurent Fignon’s second, and last, Tour de France victory.

find us on Facebook Find us on Twitter See our youtube channel

Melanoma: It started with a freckle Schwab Cycles South Salem Cycleworks frames Neugent Cycling Wheels Peaks Coaching: work with a coach! Shade Vise sunglass holder Advertise with us!

Content continues below the ads

Melanoma: It started with a freckle Schwab Cycles South Salem Cycleworks frames

The 1985 season started well for Fignon, with an overall victory in the Tour of Sicily, but soon he began experiencing a sharp pain in his left heel. Shortly after competing in April’s Liège–Bastogne–Liège classic he would undergo surgery on his Achilles tendon, and miss the rest of the season. By late June, Fignon was walking again, but the news was not all good; the following month team owner Renault had decided to terminate its sponsorship of the team, effective at the end of the year.

Until this point, professional cycling teams had been owned and run by their sponsors, but Laurent Fignon and his team director Cyrille Guimard suddenly found themselves cornered when they were unable to find a sponsor that wanted to spend enough to keep the team operating at the top level.

“What if we owned the team?” Fignon asked Guimard, saying that they could then sell the advertising space on the squad’s clothing to the highest bidder. The plan worked, and soon Guimard and Fignon’s marketing company, Maxi-Sports Promotion had a contract with the team’s new sponsor, Système U supermarkets, changing forever the way professional are run. Système U would stay with the team through four seasons before home improvement store Castorama would come on board as the team’s sponsor.

Over the winter, Greg LeMond had signed up with Bernard Hinault’s La Vie Claire squad, leaving the Renault-Elf team to compete in its final Tour de France with Philippe Chevalier as its number one rider. LeMond would finish second in the race after being ordered to wait for Hinault—who’d broken his nose in a crash while sprinting at St. Etienne three days earlier—on the climb to Luz-Ardiden. Bernard Hinault is the last French rider to win the Tour de France.

A victory in Flèche-Wallone came 386 days after Fignon’s last victory, and got his 1986 season off to a good start. The win was followed by a seventh place finish in the Vuelta, as a prelude to the Tour (the Vuelta a España wouldn’t move to its current fall spot on the international calendar until 1995). But his good placing at the Vuelta came at a price; during the fourth stage he was involved in a crash in which he sustained scraped knees, a broken rib and a dislocated bone in his chest. “I should have gone home,” he said, but decided to stay in the race to help his teammate Charly Mottet.

Fignon would pay an even bigger price at the Tour de France. After the twelfth stage, he was already eleven minutes behind and suffering from a fever. Laurent Fignon didn’t sign in for the 13th stage. At the time, the cynics were skeptical of the ‘fever’ excuse for his abandonment, but it was true; he spent the next three days in the hospital recovering from a serious throat infection.

Fignon’s comeback continued to gain momentum in 1987. He had ended the previous year with a fine second place showing at the prestigious Grand Prix de Nations time trial, and started the new season by taking two stage wins in Paris–Nice and finishing third overall.

The Frenchman hit a bump a few days after winning the Grand Prix de Wallonie in Belgium when his drug test came back positive for amphetamines. “I was devastated because it was rubbish,” he said, and claimed that the result had come about as the result of a conflict between two rival drug-testing companies. To back up his assertion that he was framed, Fignon wrote in his autobiography, “I went flat-out for the win knowing that there would be a [doping] control [for the winner].”

His preparation for the Tour again included competing in the Vuelta, where he claimed another third-place finish, but nothing could prepare him for what he’d encounter at the Tour de France.

Stephen Roche was enjoying the same type of form that Fignon had had just three years earlier; the Irishman had already won the Giro, and would prove to be equally unstoppable in the Tour. In the fall he’d win the world championship, becoming only the second rider after Eddy Merckx to win the Giro, Tour, and worlds in the same year.

At the Tour de France Fignon’s mind was elsewhere. He finished seventy-second in prologue; maybe he was concerned about the impending birth of his first child.

Laurent Fignon’s son, Jérémy, was born on July 18, the day before the new father finished sixty-fourth in Mont Ventoux time trial, more than ten minutes behind Toshiba’s Jean François Bernard. When a journalist implied that Fignon was being written off by the press, he became supremely motivated, and raced through the feed zone the next day. The tenth-place finish that that attack had brought him was followed in successive days by a sixth-place finish, a stage win, and a ninth–enough to haul him back up into the top ten overall.

Fignon’s stage win had come in the race’s twenty-first stage, a leg breaker over three beyond-category climbs to La Plagne, but in the end he could manage only seventh in the overall standings, more than 18 minutes behind Roche in Paris.

In late October, Pascal Jules (“Julot”), one of Fignon’s true friends in the peloton, died at the age of twenty six in a traffic accident following a charity soccer tournament. For years, Fignon thought about his lost friend every day, but could never come up with the strength to visit his grave. Jules’s passing, Fignon wrote later, would help him keep things in perspective following his devastating 8-second loss in the 1989 Tour de France.

Content continues below the ads

Neugent Cycling Wheels Peaks Coaching: work with a coach!

While his 1988 season would start well (wins in Milan–San Remo, and the Tour of the European Community, as the Tour de l’Avenir was then called) and end well (second-place finishes in Paris–Brussels, and the GP des Nations), Fignon’s Tour de France would again be a forgettable one.

A knee injury a few weeks earlier in the Midi Libre race and “inexplicable attacks of fatigue” had caused the Frenchman to revert “to a state of prickly solitude.” After struggling in the prologue, he was dropped in the team time trial. His Système U squad finished eleventh, and still had to wait for the struggling rider twice before finally leaving him behind with eight kilometers to go. Fignon struggled home alone, a minute and a half later. “I was empty,” he said.

The pundits at first blamed Fignon’s problem on a return of the hypoglycemia that had plagued him in the past but, after the eighth stage in Nancy, he suddenly discovered the real cause of his fatigue when his trainer pulled six feet of a tapeworm out of him. Still the Frenchman found himself twenty minutes down by the time the race reached Morzine, and elected not to sign in for stage twelve.

In the end, the race would be won by Spain’s Pedro Delgado, who beat Holland’s Steven Rooks by more than seven minutes, and Colombia’s Fabio Parra by ten. Delgado had tested positive during the race for probenecid, a drug commonly used to mask the presence of testosterone and steroids, but would get to keep his victory since the substance had not yet been added to the UCI’s list of banned drugs.  Sports Illustrated called the race the “Tour de Farce.”

Greg LeMond had missed the Tour due to an operation on his left shin after crashing in a Belgian kermesse six weeks before the race.

After four long seasons, Laurent Fignon’s comeback was complete in 1989. After a repeat victory in Milan–San Remo, he avenged his earlier loss in the Giro by taking the win over Italy’s Flavio Giupponi and American Andy Hampsten. Finally sure of his form, Fignon went in search of the elusive Giro-Tour double.  We all know how that turned out.

The LeMond-Fignon battled through the ’89 Tour like a couple of boxers trading body blows: after the pair turned in the same time in the prologue, Fignon’s Super U squad (which included Tour rookie Bjarne Riis) gave him a 51-second lead over LeMond after the American’s small ADR squad finished fifth in team time trial. In the fifth stage, an individual time trial from Dinard to Rennes, LeMond took the yellow jersey with a five-second advantage over his rival.

Fignon fought back to take a seven-second lead after the tenth stage to Superbagnères, but the American countered to assume a 40-second advantage after stage fifteen, a time trial between Gap and Orcières Merlette. In the next leg to Briançon, LeMond increased his advantage to 53 seconds, but the Frenchman countered strongly on L’Alpe d’Huez, giving himself a 26-second lead. Almost everyone thought the race was over after Fignon nearly doubled his advantage to 50 seconds the next day at Villard-de-Lans.

LeMond and Hinault

1989 Tour de France, Stage 19, LeMond gets this one.

The day before the 76th Tour de France’s final leg, an individual time trial of only 24.5 kilometers, all of France finally seemed ready to embrace its antihero. The journalists had already written much of their columns for the next day, the ones gushing about the Frenchman’s return to the top after years trying.

Then the temperamental Parisian cast a pall on his country’s premature celebration when he spit at a news camera in a scrum of reporters. Fed up with the aggressive tactics of France’s Channel 5, Fignon spat at the nearest camera crew, the problem was “they were from a Spanish channel against whom I had no grievance at all.” Then he shoved the cameraman from Channel 5.

During the final race of truth, Fignon lost an almost unthinkable 2.4 seconds per kilometer. He had decided against using the aero helmet and clip-on bars used by LeMond. (Even twenty years later, Fignon would still contend that the aero bars the American used were illegal at the time.) To make matters worse, the Frenchman was also suffering from an excruciating injury to his perineum.

“In 1989, with LeMond,” Fignon would later tell L’Equipe, “there was a void around us. The others were completely irrelevant.”

It would take a while, but eventually Laurent Fignon would be able to put his narrow defeat in perspective; when a fan said that he remembered the Frenchman as the guy who lost the Tour de France by eight seconds, Fignon would reply, “No monsieur, I’m the guy who won it twice.”

Despite his setback at the Tour, Fignon still finished the season ranked number one in the world, thanks to his victory in the two-man Baracchi trophy time trial (with Thierry Marie), and a crushing performance in the Grand Prix des Nations, where he won by nearly two minutes and set the course record at 45.6 km/h.

Laurent Fignon’s second positive drug test came at the Italian Grand Prix di Lazio. “I admit it without omission or hesitation,” he said in his autobiography. What had happened, he explained, was that he had taken amphetamines to help him through a training session earlier in the week, thinking that the drugs would be out of his system by the time of the race. They weren’t.

At the start of the 1990 season, the Frenchman again displayed good early form, this time by winning the Critérium International, but had taken the overall victory without winning a single stage.

Once again his luck in the Tour would be bad. Still feeling the effects of a crash in the Giro, which he abandoned four days after dislocating his pelvis, Fignon, whose squad was now sponsored by Castorama, finished 15th in the prologue in spite of using aero bars and an aerodynamic helmet, which sort of resembled a tadpole. Next he crashed during the third stage, and got caught up behind another one in the rainy fourth stage of the Tour, costing him more precious seconds.

He decided to abandon at the feed zone in St. Lo, about a third of the way into the fifth stage—which incidentally, would turn out to be the Tour’s final leg of more than 300 kilometers. It was the third time Laurent Fignon had quit the Tour de France, all of which had run in a counterclockwise direction around the six-sided country.

The Tour would be won by Greg LeMond, who was now with the Z Team, where he’d replaced France’s Ronan Pensec as the team leader. LeMond wouldn’t win a stage of the race, and would manage to take the yellow jersey off the shoulders of Carrera’s Claudio Chiappucci only after the event’s penultimate stage, the Lac de Vassivière time trial.

In the following Tour de France, Laurent Fignon ran into two adversaries: age and an unstoppable Miguel Indurain. “Not exactly delightful,” was how Fignon described finishing sixty-fourth in the prologue, 22 seconds behind the winner, his teammate Theirry Marie.

After crushing everyone in the first individual time trial, Miguel Indurain stopped riding for Pedro Delgado, and started riding for himself. One of the men crushed by the big Spaniard was Laurent Fignon, who’d finished a distant sixteenth in the race of truth, 3 min. 39 sec. behind.

Fignon finished the 1991 Tour de France sixth overall, 11:27 behind Indurain, and one spot ahead of Greg LeMond.

Content continues below the ads

Shade Vise sunglass holder Advertise with us!

By 1992 Fignon’s working relationship with Cyrille Guimard had deteriorated badly. So, fed up, Fignon sold his interest in Maxi-Sports to his former business partner and headed to Italy—where, he said, they still respected former champions. Fignon signed with the Italian Gatorade squad, which was led at the time world champion Gianni Bugno. He knew at the time that he was signing with his last professional team.

Laurent Fignon

Fignon in his Gatorade days. Eric Houdas photo

Though he managed only thirty-seventh in Giro, and would be passed for a six-minute loss to Indurain in the famous Luxembourg time trial in the Tour de France, Fignon would have one last hurrah when he won the Tour’s eleventh stage by a handful of seconds over the likes of Pedro Delgado, Laurent Jalabert, and Sean Kelly.

To seal his win in the six-and-a-half-hour leg, Fignon dropped his last challengers on the day’s final climb, the first-category Grand Ballon, and rode “what amounted to a hundred-kilometer time trial” to the finish in Mulhouse, covering the final fifty-three kilometers through the Vosges—into a headwind—in less than an hour. He would finish the race twenty-third overall.

Fignon’s becoming the only European professional to win the Ruta Mexico notwithstanding, by 1993 his days as a professional cyclist were numbered—and he knew it.

He would abandon his final Tour de France just before the first of the thirty-one switchbacks that make up the ascent of Isola 2000, the fourth and final major climb of the race’s eleventh stage after another long day in the saddle. “There was no point in continuing,” he said, since he already trailed the leaders by 37 minutes, and surely would have been the fifteenth rider to be eliminated that day for finishing outside the time limit.

Before he left the race for the final time, he’d made sure to ride slowly over the 9190–foot La Bonette/Restefonds climb, the highest point of the race, in last place—just because he wanted to. “I put my hands on top of the bars and savored it all to the full. I was breathing deeply as I lived through my last seconds in bike racing, which I had thought would never end for me. This col was all mine and I didn’t want anyone to interlude.”

The 1993 Tour de France would also be the final one for Pedro Delgado, and Stephen Roche. (Greg LeMond, who’d had to withdraw before the start of the race because of allergies, would ride his final Tour the following year. He’d abandon during the sixth stage.)

Laurent Fignon’s last race as a professional was the Grand Prix de Plouay in mid-August. Though he’d wanted to finish the French race, the event’s fast pace and his lack of conditioning forced him to get to the front, say his goodbyes, and then drift to the back, where he simply stopped and ended his professional career. He was thirty-three at the time and was ranked 201st in the world.  Though he was done as a rider, Fignon continued to work for the Gatorade team until his contract was up at the end of 1994. 

Laurent Fignon found himself restless after his retirement, and signed on as a television commentator for Eurosport. He also set up the Laurent Fignon Organization in 1996 and put on the Isle de France Cyclotourist Trophy, a series of events that included family and culture as well as cycling.

Eventually he was able to buy the Paris–Nice race from Josette Leulliot, the daughter of race founder Jean Leulliot. At first the annual event went smoothly, with Fignon saying that in 2000 and 2001 Paris–Nice “was a fine sports event.” But then, says Fignon, the powerful owners of the Tour de France began to interfere with the organizing of his race, by employing tactics such as outbidding him for stage cities, which hurt him financially.

In the end, he was forced to sell the event to his adversaries, and another business venture came to an end. Also coming to an end was Fignon’s marriage to Nathalie, who’d stood by him though all the ups and downs with which a professional cyclist must cope (he would later marry his assistant, Valérie).

For the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France in 2003, L’Equipe’s Christine Thomas interviewed all the living winners of the Tour de France. Laurent Fignon, living at the time in the empty loft once occupied by his Paris–Nice organization, was his usual straightforward self when the subject of drugs came up. “Perhaps I was doped,” he stated matter-of-factly, “but that is only my concern. I endured, I was serious, and I did what I had to. If I die when I am fifty, that’s my problem.”

By 2006 Laurent Fignon had moved on to another business venture, the Laurent Fignon Center at Gerde in the Hautes-Pyrenées, where he would run a range of training camps for amateur cyclists. He would also continue his work as a cycling analyst for French television.

Too soon Fignon was stricken with cancer. He asserts that the onset of his illness in 2009 was not caused by drugs; “If there was a direct link [to drugs] with my cancer,” he said, “I think there would be a lot of other cyclists that would also be suffering from the same cancer.” In his autobiography, which came out the same year, Fignon discusses his two positive drug tests in some detail, but denies EPO use. While racing, he did use cortisone, which was injected, and did not pass through the riders’ stomachs.

In spite of his illness Laurent Fignon continued his duties as a commentator for French television during the 2010 Tour de France, but was allowed by his doctors to work only ten minutes of each hour. Everyone’s best wishes were with him, but they couldn’t help. When he checked in to the Pitié-Salpètrière Hospital ten days after the race, doctors discovered that the cancer, which had actually originated in his lungs, was spreading.

Laurent Patrick Fignon died on August 31, 2010—19 days after his fiftieth birthday.

Upon hearing of Fignon’s passing, French president Nicolas Sarkozy would say, “He gave the entire world a masterly lesson of dignity, courage, and humanity.”


Christine Thomas, “Laurent Fignon,” Cycle Sport, Nov. 2003, p. 84.
David Walsh, Inside the Tour de France (VeloNews Books, Boulder, CO, 1994), p. 60.
John Wilcockson, “A Warrior to the End: Laurent Fignon, 1960-2010,” VeloNews, Nov. 2010, pp. 19, 20. 
Laurent Fignon, We Were Young and Carefree, (Yellow Jersey Press, London, 2009, various pages.
Matt Rendell, editor, The Official Tour de France Centennial: 1903-2003, (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2003) p. 296.
Pascal Segent, Guy Crasset, and Hervé Dauchy, “Laurent Fignon,” World Cycling Encyclopedia; A-F (deEecloonaar, Belgium, 2000), pp. 679-80.
Philippe Brunel, An Intimate Portrait of the Tour de France: Masters and Slaves of the Road, (Buonpane Publications, Denver, Colorado, 1995), pp. 138, 139, 147.
Sam Abt, Breakaway: On the Road With the Tour de France, (Random House, New York, 1985), pp. 34, 35, 124, 154.
Sam Abt, In High Gear: The World of Professional Bicycle Racing, (Bicycle Books, Mill Valley, California, 1989), pp. 22-24, 57, 58, 117.
Sam Abt, Tour de France: Three Weeks to Glory (Bicycle Books, Mill Valley, CA, 1991), pp. 69, 93, 95.
Sam Abt, “Fignon Goes Out With a Fizzle,” Bicycle Racing in the Modern Era (Velo Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1997), pp. 201, 202.