I refer, of course, to Bernard Hinault, the “Badger,” aptly named for his legendary tenacity. A 5-time Tour de France victor, he also mentored (and manipulated) America’s first (and only) Tour winner, Greg LeMond. Please watch the recent (2014) film “Slaying the Badger.” In the US it can be viewed on youtube. A short (1hr, 18min) documentary on the LeMond-Hinault love-hate relationship of the 1980’s. Stunningly shot, beautifully edited, and effectively written, it’s a magnificent portrayal of two great careers in the the most photogenic of all sports. Hinault retains his dignity and greatness, LeMond can be seen for his affable independence and bionic (perhaps unequaled) prowess. A complex story, expertly told.
As to the Badger, increasingly everything I do seems related to cycling. Even when it isn’t, I later find it is. Case in point: July 29, 2014. I’m moving from Seattle to Port Hadlock on the Olympic Peninsula (better riding, more nature, lower costs, greater tranquility). After one hectic day of packing and schlepping boxes to a rented truck I endeavored one last task: taking down the largest picture in our house. It’s a shot of the Hinault in San Francisco at the Telegraph Hill Time Trial of the 1986 Coors Classic. Taken by Rich Sangalli, it hung over the front door of Wheelsmith for many years and has graced our home since. It’s a giant print, about 4′ tall and 2′ wide.
August 10, 1986 is burned in our collective memories: a rare appearance for top European pros, the Coors Classic electrified San Francisco with the TT Prologue and the Fisherman’s Wharf Criterium. It was also the year of the first World Road Cycling Championships held in the US, the next month in Colorado Springs. Ron Kiefel killed the short TT course and in the crit I rode the Specialized neutral support motorcycle behind the unforgettable Bill Woodul. Doesn’t get any better than that.
In Jan 1997, Bernard visited Wheelsmith in Palo Alto. When he saw his picture he requested a pen. Up a wobbly ladder he went, to write “Bonne chance” under his signature. Fast forward to 2014.
The stairwell in my Seattle house is tall, serving three floors. To take down Mr Hinault means crawling into an alcove, a careful but simple move I did twice earlier in the day removing display bikes. That evening however, as I moved towards the picture, something bizarre happened. I was looking at Bernard and flying. Thanks to the Splat Calculator I can report being airborne for 0.79 seconds and moving just over 17mph when I hit the cement in our entryway 10′ below. Total impact force = 10,000lbs. I’m told I’m lucky.
Typical cycling injuries resulted: fractured pelvis and compound fracture to wrist (bent back double, six breaks in the radius alone). One week surgery, one week rehab, now 5 more weeks on crutches. I’ll bet a bunch of you are grimacing, having suffered similarly in racing. Greg LeMond teammate, “Kamikaze” Keith Vierra broke his pelvis descending Old LaHonda Road. 7-Eleven pro Doug Shapiro fell while climbing gently on a similar grade one morning, snapping off his femur head (and missing the Santa Cruz Criterium to which he was pedaling). A broken pelvis is better.
Purpose of this post?
(1) If you are going to suffer cycling type injuries, do it cycling, not moving a picture of the Badger. Or at least make sure you have a Red Bull, half pipe fish story to back you up (thanks, Rich).
(2) Wake up calls are just that. How else can risks of gravity, traction, timing, and speed be weighed? May yours be gentler than serious. Also, learn from the mistakes and misfortune of others.
(3) As long as life continues to be infected with cycling related events and themes, I’ll soon be ready for more. Meanwhile, watch “Slaying the Badger” for an inspiring and enlightening break.