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« Book Review: Ignore Everybody | Main | Old bike designs die hard »

Hinault vs. Armstrong

Five times Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault (Pictured left.) was recently answering questions at a presentation in Montereau.

Hinault's comments were published in Velo-News, and he had this to say about Lance Armstrong’s chances in the Tour de France:

"I hope he will not be there. Is he afraid of France? Nobody forced him to come; he only has to stay at home. He cannot win the Tour. I hope Contador gives him a beating."

Lance immediately fired off a response on Twitter.

"What a wanker. Five Tour de France wins doesn't buy you any common sense."

This counter attack by Armstrong brought him support from some quarters, but also a large amount of criticism. Many said that Hinault was entitled to his opinion and didn’t deserve to be labeled a “Wanker” (Loser.) for expressing it.

My feelings were Bernard Hinault has always been known for speaking his mind, often in a negative manner. Lance Armstrong would have gained more respect by not following his lead.

A better approach might have been to say something like, “Bernard Hinault does not think I have a chance in the TDF.” Placed a link to the article, and left it at that.

Lance Armstrong fans would have immediately rallied to his defense, and at the same time his critics could not have faulted him. It would have been a win win for Lance.

Hinault has won the Tour five times, but Armstrong won it seven. Lance does not have to defend his abilities as a cyclist to anyone, even Bernard Hinault. But Lance Armstrong does not do himself any favors by referring to another former world class athlete as a “Wanker.”

There is a lesson to be learned here and one that I should pay attention to; I have not been above ranting here when I have felt I was criticized unfairly.

Ever since human kind learned to communicate with speech, man has opened his mouth and put his foot in it.

With today’s technology, email, blogs and Twitter, we can now put our foot in it globally. We all need to think before we hit send.


Reader Comments (28)

my thoughts precisely. Its a shame I've always liked Lance Armstrong but this latest rant has made me think differently. I love Bernard Hinualt and his outspoken manner. Lance is acting like a stroppy teenager which is something I didn't expect and I think he will realise that he has made a fool of himself sooner or later. Have instant access to millions of people at the click of a mouse button is not always a good thing.

June 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Lamb

I don't think it's that surprising - Armstrong seems to be critical of France and the French quite often, but doesn't like it when the table are turned, it seems. If Hinault is proud of his country, I don't see why he shouldn't respond to that criticism.

Armstrong's twitter response is of a piece with his behaviour in the Giro - press are critical? Then blank the press. It doesn't matter what he does, really, because he's such a huge personality outside of cycling - he can do what he likes, because the vast majority of people aware of him will never see this odd, slightly petulant side of his personality because they don't follow the cycling press.

June 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn the Monkey

Possibly also worth mentioning that Hinault is far more scathing of the current crop of Franch riders, & of the use of race radio than he is of Mr. Armstrong in that article.

And that Hinault tipped Mr. Armstrong to beat his own 5 TdeF victories prior to the '04 tour, he's no "hater" as some of the Armstrong fans would have you believe.

June 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn the Monkey

Have to agree that Lance Armstrong let himself down by rising to the bait, but he's only human. Hinault's comments were quite inflammatory.

June 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephen

Stephen, this is a rider who once talked of his comeback as being "the best way to piss off the French", and has been pictured in a T-shirt showing a cowboy boot kicking a frog in the butt. If he's gonna dish it out...

June 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn the Monkey

Another bit of French bashing from 2006;

"news.yahoo.com — Lance Armstrong renewed his verbal attack on the French, bashing their World Cup team during an American awards show. Armstrong said at one point that, "All their players (France) tested positive ... for being a** holes,".

(And as reported in the times;)

June 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn the Monkey

But Hinault is a wanker. As much as I've come to dislike Lemond in recent years, Hinault proved himself to be a forever-wanker by attacking him (a team mate) at the 1986 Tour after promising to ride in support.

I admit it's a little Wrestle-mania, but it's still hard not to love Lance for his rude comments about the French and their out-of-control loathing of him.

June 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBob Loblaw

I am by no means a Lance fanboy, but The Badger is no innocent babe. He wouldn't know a classy move if it bit him in the arse.

As prominent a figure as he strikes as a both a rider and organizer of the Tour, he should not be saying such things about any rider without justification, much less its greatest champion. Furthermore, his non sequitur "... hope that Contador gives him a beating" is an odd thing to say after forbidding Astana from competition last year. It's a shame his wish will be granted.

June 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChamps

I like Lance's response; if Hinault were able to respond with his legs instead of his mouth he'd do it. After all, a badger isn't pretty when it's cornered. But a badger isn't all mouth and no action as humans can turn into.
Winning is all about beating the competition; what winners say (and do) is about ego, as you wrote in a prior post.
It is not about being a role model or politically correct. I hate those impositions. Those demands are what weak citizens use for an excuse because they will never do what champions, or warriors do.
It's been like that throughout history.

June 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I thought wanker was a British term for someone who 'takes matters into his own hands' so to speak. Taken this way, how would you interpret Hinaults' wish for Contador to give him a good beating?

June 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermercator

Hinault's comment using Contador is vicarious. He can't do it himself so he's using someone else for his own agenda.
And if Hinault can't take Lance's response, he never was a true champion, only in it for the money.
And I challenge Hinault to a race up Palomar (we're about the same age), but perhaps he's too afraid to be there...

June 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

lance armstrong is such a prick.

June 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbob

Dave -- I work in communications, and I always preach restraint ... I only wish I could make the case as well as you have here.

Excellent and wise advise.

June 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRider

i think it's a shame that we need to think of the best possible way to "portray" ourselves. What's so bad about Lance lashing out or being upset? Maybe we should have some type of global mood stabilisation drug so everyone can be zombies... polite zombies

June 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commentera window on swanston

Hinault has always been wrong about Lemond, so no change there...

What's wrong about Lance lashing out? Depends on your point of view, I guess. Given that the point of his comeback is a degree of ambassadorship, and that his team is looking for folk to pony up a BUNCH of money so they can carry on racing, you'd think he'd play a bit more nicely than he does, tbh. As I said earlier, it's a good job that he's such a big personality outside of cycling, and that the people following that don't follow the cycling press (where trivia like this is reported more often).

And the thing is, Hinault is (I think at least) reacting to the numerous times Mr. Armstrong has spoken of his "fear" of the French. The stuff from the start of the year where he spoke about how he was worried about being attacked if he rode the tour. The stuff from the whole shower episode where he was worried that ASO/AFLD would stop him riding. And yet rules have been bent a fair bit this year to accomodate him (so he could ride the Tour Down Under, so he could ride the Tour of the Gila). I don't think the perception of people being out to get him matches what's actually happening, which could be what occasioned Hinault's remarks.

Or maybe this is one of those "All publicity is good publicity" things.

June 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn the Monkey

Incidentally, people saying Hinault can't respond on the road - OF COURSE HE CAN'T. They're riders from different eras.

This is akin to the criticism levelled at Kimmage, that he's "bitter" because his palmares doesn't bulge like a starlet's halter top.

The idea that you can't criticise a rider unless you're as good as him (in this case given extra special pleading because Hinault has to be as good as Armstrong AT THIS POINT IN TIME) doesn't lead any place good.

June 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn the Monkey

To conclude my comments above:
How Armstrong responded is brilliant.
Hinault is showing he really was in racing only for the money, which was his choice, but not what I admire in a champion.
He is mentally masturbating saying what he did, defeating Armstrong through Contador. Thus, Lance's word usage is entirely appropriate.
At least Lance is back, and not only for the money. I do admire that.
Not many get what Lance is saying, nor my comments above.
That's fine.
Bottom line, are we living vicariously, or out riding our f**king bikes?
Steven Farner

June 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

While I wouldn't have taken Armstrong's approach, I most certainly have no love for Hinault's approach to this matter. While Hinault does have his right to his own thoughts, why does that automatically force Armstrong to take the high road? Armstrong has always been brash and outspoken...it's his personality, similar, perhaps to Hinault's. I firmly beilieve that if you attack first, expect to be attacked. Hinault's rant was childish and yes, while he was critical of his French riders, that doesn't allow him the freedom to bring his rant to those who reside in the Lone Star state. As Armstrong showed by his strong placing in the Giro (and that with time off because of the broken collarbone), he certainly does deserve to be in the Tour.

Hinault....what a wanker!!

June 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaltese Falcon

While I did wince mentally when I read Lance's tweet, Twitter doesn't force anyone to self-reflect before publishing their thoughts. "Wanker" to, seems like an odd term for an American to use, and seems almost light-hearted in comparison to the mean-spirited comments put forth by Hinault.

June 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDave Wyman

Jan 2009;

Armstrong was asked if he specifically fears a physical attack.

"Yeah. There're directors of French teams that have encouraged people to take to the streets ... elbow to elbow. It's very emotional and tense," he said.

It's unclear why Armstrong is worried about his safety now, given that attacks on riders are extremely rare. - Cycling Story here. (among others)

March 2009

Seven-times Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong says the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) could prevent him from riding in this year's race.

"There is a very high likelihood they will prohibit me from riding on the Tour," the 37-year-old Texan said. - BBC Story here., among others

June 2009

"I hope he will not be there. Is he afraid of France? Nobody forced him to come; he only has to stay at home. He cannot win the Tour. I hope Contador gives him a beating."

I guess it's just me that see's Hinault's comments as a response, then.

June 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn the Monkey

It's all good drama. Let them go at it. Maybe 20 years from now we'll see Lance Armstrong and Greg Lemond in one of those corny Celebrity Boxing episodes. Duke it out!

June 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBoris Sheikman


You need to write for a tabloid! :)

June 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRon

It is tough for Lemond & Hinault. They were from a different generation where the pros raced throughout the year. They didn't have the freedom to be focussed on one race.

It is interesting how cool Merckx has been by not getting drawn into any accusations and slanging matches after all he is the undisputed greatest of all time and his reputation stands the most to lose from Lance's 7 tour wins being perceived as proof that he was better than Eddie. Only fringe cycling fans would see it that way as they don't appreciate that while it is the biggest, the TDF is only one race in a very busy pro schedule.

Cool Eddie knows that nobody else will ever win the Yellow, Green & Polka Dot jersey all in the same tour. The Cannibal.

Lemond has a legitimate gripe. One year to the next, Pro speeds increased unbelievably and he & his team was left behind, and it wasn't because they had old bikes. The French press couldn't work it out either. Something wasn't right, so they used to search Lance's rubbish every day. Lance got pissed off and still hates them for it. They still believe he was doping.

June 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNick

The French have always shown their distaste for Armstrong when over half the interest the tour gets is due to Armstrong. And I like the way Hinault can be - for lack of better word a 'wanker' and Lance has to be the one to take the high road. Even though I won't prescribe Armstrong's responce, the fact is, RESPECT is RECIPROCAL.

I hope Armstrong gets the Yellow Jersey Tomorrow and Hinault has to congratulate him on him the podium. The Hinault can 'take matters into his own hands' So to speak.

July 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLethal Bizzle

Hinault was a great rider but an asshole of a man.

July 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTim

At first I had some sympathy for Contador. But let them duel it out and see who comes out on top. Remember Lance continued to get strong in the Giro. I think the same thing is happening in the tour. I mean he's in third now. Shouldn't have he failed a dope test already according to the French. His name has been dragged through the mud. He had to come back to show all this was not done by doping. And I respect him for that. If you know anything about cycling, you know how much work it takes to get race ready. Lance has earned the right to back slap bernnie. 7 tour wins. And didn't Mr Bernie duel it out with Greg Lemond in 86 when Lemond was supposed to be the team leader. Must be his old age ..

July 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterleon

Wait a sec! You can appreciate Hinault's outspoken envious nature, but not Armstrong's right to call him what he is? What a wanker. By the way a wanker is a masturbater. Someone who like's to stroke himself for purposes of his own enjoyment.

Hinault wasn't man enough to take on LeMond and used his seniority on a French team to limit the man. Five time winner indeed. Then broke his promise and attempted to screw him a second time. Thankfully he was put in his place. He acts like we don't know that.

As to Lance only being a champion of Le Tour. He's right. But, Armstrong says so himself. Lance says all the time that he doesn't think he can even be included with the greats of the sport. But, he did win 7! And, he was a world champ. And, at 37 after taking 3 years off from riding competitively, suffering a broken clavicle during his comeback, he is back in second only to his younger teammate and Tour champ. If Hinault doesn't have the common sense to acknowledge the huge interest and income that Lance has brought to the Tour, he could at least acknowledge the man's cycling greatness.

July 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElias

hinault was the best rider ever! he was a real man on the bike. armstrong is a lot like hinault, but more calculating. hinault would expose his competition and destroy them, with pure animalistic ways, the ways of a true warrior. todays racers don't have the heart or riding style that the old guys had, walky talkys, lab room science, and big cash. the guys from way back, from hinaults era, were the real deal. hinault would have raced for free! just to show he truely was stronger than the rest. without guys like hinault, cycling would have been bloody boring. just my opinion.

August 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercyclemania
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