By Andrew Hood
Bernard Hinault never had the reputation of guarding his tongue when he ruled the peloton as the patron. Now 54, it’s obvious some things haven’t changed.
Le Blaireau — the Badger — didn’t hold back when he fielded questions during a presentation this week in Montereau, the starting village of the final stage of the 2009 Tour de France.
The last French winner of the Tour had an opinion on just about everything, and didn’t hold back when it came to criticizing the current state of the French peloton.
“There are champions who become like civil servants when they turn pro. You have to put a knife to their throats to get any results,” Hinault said. “The French earn too much money and don’t make enough effort.”
The French daily Le Parisien published extracts of Hinault’s critiques in its Friday edition.
“The French don’t train,” Hinault said. “Nobody taps them in the mouth to get them going. It’s necessary to block their salary and later hand them back the money if they win something.”
On whether the Tour is too hard: “The Tour is not too hard. It is necessary to stop complaining. Cycling is a hard profession, but it’s better than going to the factory. A racer who wins is never paid too much. If you really want to win, you fight until your last breath.”
On Armstrong’s comeback: “I hope he will not be there. Is he afraid of France? Nobody forced him to come, he only has to stay home! He cannot win the Tour. I hope that Contador gives him a beating.”
On doping: “The French have taken as much as the others. What is not normal is that they are not treated in the same manner as other sportsmen.”
On earpieces: “I am against them. It is just a ‘Game Boy’ that has a gigolo attached at the end telling the racer when to take a piss. With Guimard, we studied the map and the wind the morning before the stage.”
On Greg LeMond: “He was a good racer, but not an attacker. He was unable to make tactics by himself. In 1986, I kept my promise to help him win the Tour. Me? I just wanted to have fun!”