Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A True Champion

Back in 1984 I had one cycling hero.. maybe the last hero I had, and that was Bernard Hinault. Here in the states, he got a rap for being the guy who betrayed Opie, I mean Greg Lemond, during the '86 tour. As far as I'm concerned it was Greg who betrayed himself with his naivete and lack of acumen in discerning the nature of the relationship.

Hinault is a champion. From his youth he was a champion. You cannot take a champion like him to the vet and nueter him. He will be a pitbull no matter what. His allegence is to himself, to cycling, even to the attack itself. To pure blood of the kill. Look at the way he raced. He charged the towers when he raced. Screaming at the parapets. He lunged for the jugular when the jugular was just out of reach, daring his competitors to walk the line with him. Flame out or quench his thirst with the blood of glory. A cyclist. A hero in the greekest sense.

Since the 'Armstrong era' began I've had this feeling that something about cycling had changed since I'd left it. The brash, confident and reckless attacks of the likes of Sean Kelly or Bernard Hinault were missing in my mind. The calculated, controlled and overbearing control of the race that Postal, or Discovery exerted stifled the race, stifled the spirit of cycling. Proof that control will win races, the directors began plotting conservative strategies on race control and dominance. The individual personalities, the passion and suffering of the individual was placed in service to this control. Where was the brash attack? The suicide break? 'killing is not enough, you must win the fight' keeps running through my head. Hinault always rode without fear- Fear of others, or his own limitations. He flew from the pack when it served his interest, his desire, his intention. He did not fear his director, his teammates, the peloton, the fans, or even his sponsors. He road for himself. In his interview posted this evening on VeloNews crystallizes all of this.

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