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Inside Cycling with John Wilcockson
Last week, I left you with a thought from Greg LeMond after Frenchman Laurent Fignon won the 1983 Tour de France: "We all thought it was kind of a fluke." Had LeMond, then 22, started that Tour, he might well have won it. He was two months older than Fignon, who was his teammate, and LeMond would have gone into the race with much better results, including victories at the 1982 Tour de l'Avenir and 1983 Dauphiné Libéré.

Backing up that theory was the manner in which LeMond continued the 1983 season, winning the world championship and then the Super Prestige Pernod title ( see " Inside Cycling ," October 14 ). Instead, the circumstances were very different when Renault-Elf directeur sportif Cyrille Guimard decided it was time for LeMond to ride the Tour the following year.

Fignon wins the '83 Tour

photo: AFP (file photo)
To start with, four-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault had left Guimard's roster in a huff and formed a new team for French businessman Bernard Tapie, The title sponsor was one of Tapie's companies, a chain of health food stores, La Vie Claire. And the men signed to help Hinault were a mixture of former teammates and domestiques from other teams.

Meanwhile, Fignon was enjoying a break-out season, having won stages at Colombia's Clasico RCN, Switzerland's Tour de Romandie and the Giro d'Italia - in which he finished second overall after a race-long duel with Italian Francesco Moser. And a week before the Tour, Fignon won the French national championship. He was on a roll.

LeMond though was in and out of good health that spring, but managed third place at April's Liège-Bastogne-Liège (beaten in the sprint by Sean Kelly and Phil Anderson), and then won the final time trial of June's Dauphiné (placing third overall behind Colombian Martin Ramirez and Hinault).

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