"He did not believe he could lose."
August 31, 2010 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Laurent Fignon, French cycling champion, two-time winner (1983-84) of the Tour de France, has died of cancer at 50.

Many Americans came to know him as the man Greg LeMond beat by 8 seconds in the fastest ever (at the time) time trial in the 1989 TDF.

In his autobiography "We Were Young and Carefree ("Nous étions jeunes et insouciants")," Fignon discussed his use of amphetamines during his career and denied speculation that they had any significance to his cancer.

AFP report on Fignon's death.

From Le Monde (in French) (the French news site, not Greg)

I first heard of Fignon in relation to Greg LeMond, in E.M. Swift's SI piece "Le Grand LeMond", in Fignon is characterized by his arrogance and his flowing blond ponytail, which he disdains to sully with a helmet.

There was, of course, so much more to him.
posted by toodleydoodley (35 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I do wonder if there was a relationship between his amphetamine use and the form of cancer he died from (a cancer of the digestive tract). I know from experience that amphetamines can dramatically affect the nervous system of the gut.
posted by melatonic at 11:16 AM on August 31, 2010


.

Really sad news. He was still working for French television during this year's Tour de France as a commentator, and from all accounts he was still as feisty and ebullient as ever. A true fighter.
posted by afx237vi at 11:16 AM on August 31, 2010


.

The 89 Tour was the first one I really followed as I spent the summer in France that year. The final stage was ridiculously tense. Fignon gave his all, just wasn't quite enough. 8 fucking seconds.
posted by jontyjago at 11:19 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


.
posted by ardgedee at 11:22 AM on August 31, 2010


I worked in a bicycle shop when I was in high school... that'd be 1986-1989. Laurent Fignon was a legend to me and my USCF friends, eclipsed only by the rise of Greg LeMond.

.
posted by workerant at 11:25 AM on August 31, 2010


melatonic: I do wonder if there was a relationship between his amphetamine use and the form of cancer he died from (a cancer of the digestive tract). I know from experience that amphetamines can dramatically affect the nervous system of the gut.

I thought about this too when I read about his death, and did a (admittedly very tiny) bit of research. Though everything I read -- which again wasn't much -- had Fignon admitting to doping (which to me is more serious a rule violation and something separate from amphetamine use, but that's for another thread; also my knowledge of drug use in cycling wouldn't fill this text box). But I did wonder about it in relation to Lance Armstrong's medical history and other accusations. Here's what Fignon said when asked about a possible link between his cancer and his past drug use:

“Digestive cancer is primarily a disease of nutrition. The products I took were intramuscular, they didn’t pass through the stomach. So, no, if all the cyclists who doped would later have cancer, then everyone would have cancer … Whether those who lived through 1998, when a lot of extreme things happened, will get cancer after 10 or 20 years, I really can’t say.”
Make of that what you will.

Also

.

So young. (The older I get, the lower the bar for that exclamation)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:28 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:30 AM on August 31, 2010


.
posted by The Michael The at 11:34 AM on August 31, 2010


The very first footage of the Tour I ever saw was his defeat (and LeMond's victory) on the Champs-Élysées, which was quite indelible to me.

This year I listened to/watched a good chunk of the TdF on France2, where the play-by-play/color announcers are very rarely shown. Given my listening/viewing habits and my flimsy French I didn't pick up right away on the fact that the one announcer who had an unusually hoarse voice day in and day out was Laurent. Turns out his hoarseness was being caused by what he referred to as a 'benign' growth on one of his vocal cords, but he was there providing commentary through to the end of the race. I was really struck by the way that the producers would put someone on the air who was so openly suffering, although he and the other announcers seemed frankly rather cheerful about the whole thing. That was barely a month ago; he must have either gone downhill awfully quickly or not really let on as to how much trouble he was in. Or both. I remember thinking it was a brave thing for him to do at the time and now I realize just how brave it must have been. Salut, Laurent.

.
posted by the painkiller at 11:36 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh, this is awful. Fignon is the first man I can remember winning the Tour de France. He was a giant (at least to me)!
posted by OmieWise at 11:45 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by everichon at 11:45 AM on August 31, 2010


.
posted by Madamina at 11:48 AM on August 31, 2010


Fignon almost got me beat up in 1989. I was spending the summer in France and was doing some laundry and popped into a nearby bar, dark and seedy. As I sat nursing my beer, the TV was reviewing the news of the day. I had already given up the Tour as a lost cause for LeMond and my French is really only sufficient to order drinks and mumble a few polite phrases. When it finally dawned on me that LeMond had made the improbable come from behind victory, I could not supress a shout of joy. The men in the bar took the Tour very seriously and were extraordinarily displeased by my enthusiasm for the result. My French was good enough to understand the anger and menace and I fled into the street after hastily settling my tab. When I think of Fignon, I think of the great love I felt from Frenchmen that summer for him and the profound disappointment they all seemed to feel at the shocking upset by the upstart American.

A sad day, indeed.
posted by Lame_username at 11:51 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Mister_A at 11:58 AM on August 31, 2010


Make of that what you will.

What do cyclists eat? I know they take in lots of calories. Maybe the type of diet that delivers that kind of energy could cause problems down the road.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:04 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by ghharr at 12:04 PM on August 31, 2010


What do cyclists eat? I know they take in lots of calories. Maybe the type of diet that delivers that kind of energy could cause problems down the road.

It's a moot point by now, but apparently his doctors determined that the cancer originated in his lungs.
posted by god hates math at 12:51 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by cmfletcher at 1:26 PM on August 31, 2010


Like him or not, he was a giant in the cycling world. If you loved cycling, you knew him as a powerful rider and a loud personality. If you didn't know cycling, you knew him as an unfortunate foil to Greg LeMond in 1989. Losing both the TdF and the rainbow to the same man in a year... even my non-cycling friends know his name.
posted by introp at 1:39 PM on August 31, 2010


I think of the great love I felt from Frenchmen that summer for him and the profound disappointment they all seemed to feel at the shocking upset by the upstart American.

A sad day, indeed.
posted by Lame_username at 11:51 AM on August 31 [+] [!]


My feelings on recalling Fignon's races reminds me of this scene from Amelie.

Ah, the sweet pain.
posted by basicchannel at 1:44 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by jquinby at 2:01 PM on August 31, 2010


Just jumping back in to add the NYT obit, which wasn't available this morning when I saw the report at El Pais. Some nice details here, ex: about his nickname, "The Professor," due to his having spent one term in veterinary college.

.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:15 PM on August 31, 2010


.
posted by $0up at 4:02 PM on August 31, 2010


.
00:00:08
posted by sciencegeek at 4:14 PM on August 31, 2010


I grew up watching le Tour with my cycling-nut father, and even as a boy I remember loving Fignon. He was stylish and, well, French in some ineffable way (okay, the ponytail and glasses helped) and his Systeme U yellow/black jerseys were super cool.

Truth be told, I liked his little round glasses so much (a pro athlete! Wearing regular glasses!) that as soon as I was old enough to be making glasses frame-purchasing decisions for myself, I, too, wore little round glasses.

And I still do, to this day.

.
posted by pts at 5:27 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


The most amazing thing about Lemond's win was that he still had gunshot pellets in his body.
posted by bwg at 6:01 PM on August 31, 2010


From the cyclingnews article linked up thread:
A physically affected and fatigued Fignon was realistic about his situation. "I live from day to day. I hope the next treatment will work. Regardless of my good will and the strength of my battle, if they don't find the right medication, there will be a time where it will take me away. I don't want to die at 50 years old, but if it is incurable, what can I do about it? I love life, I love to laugh, travel, read, eat well like every Frenchman. I'm not afraid to die, I just don't want to!"
YouTube link with the conclusion of the 1989 World Championships, with lots of great Fignon.
posted by Chuckles at 6:16 PM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


.
posted by klanawa at 6:47 PM on August 31, 2010


One of the greats.


.
posted by caddis at 7:00 PM on August 31, 2010


The stronger I get as a cyclist, the more astonishing the feats of these men become. Watching that video of the '89 championship... 90km/h in the rain. Astonishing.
posted by klanawa at 7:02 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


A great rider. And an intellectual, in peloton terms. I raise a glass to Laurent Fignon.
posted by homerica at 8:03 PM on August 31, 2010


.
posted by buzzman at 10:57 PM on August 31, 2010


.
posted by genehack at 3:40 AM on September 1, 2010



.
posted by Man with Lantern at 9:00 AM on September 1, 2010


A great set of photos of 'Le Professeur' at L'Equipe.
A couple of quotes that seem to sum him up well, the first from Cyrille Guimard his directeur sportif and the second from Laurent:

Laurent didn't like the crowds, the fans' familiarity made him uncomfortable. He was a real champion, who deserved to be loved by the fans, but despite this he never fitted into the role which was his for the asking.

This job brought me a lot, except on an intellectual level, where I felt I regressed, and that was my biggest sacrifice.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 12:42 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older 7734.40   |   War of Every Man Against Every Man Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments