First name: Bernard
Last name: Hinault
Age: 69 years old
Date of birth: 14-11-1954
Place of birth: Yffiniac (Brittany), France
If we evaluate Bernard Hinault’s record up to his 24th birthday, he holds the shared fifth place (with Peter Sagan) in the all-time ranking, but if we look at his record at the end of his career, Hinault is definitely on the podium at the moment. Many consider him the greatest ever after Merckx. And … in our opinion, that’s right!
It was even a driving force for Hinault to knock that Belgian off the throne as the greatest ever. Nevertheless, until his 24th birthday, Hinault had a lot fewer points than Remco Evenepoel (105 versus 155). However, Hinault continued on this path for quite some time afterwards. Where Evenepoel ends up is still written in the stars. What Hinault ultimately accomplished has long been in the history books with golden letters and many exclamation points.
Hinault is undoubtedly one of the strongest and most versatile riders in history. He was the best time trialist of his generation, was one of the very best uphill and he could sometimes even beat the specialists in a bunch sprint. With five Tour de France wins, three Giro wins and two Vuelta wins, he is the second greatest Tour rider in history with 10 Grand Tour victories. He earned 29 stage wins in the Tour, seven in the Vuelta and six in the Giro d’ Italia, bringing his total stage wins to 42. He also became world road champion. With a further 2 x Liege-Bastogne-Liege, 2 x Tour of Lombardy, 1 x Paris-Roubaix, 2 x Flèche Wallonne, 1 x Amstel Gold race, 1 x Ghent-Wevelgem and a total of 146 UCI victories, he owns one of the greatest palmares ever.
Impressive! Hats off!
Hinault’s nickname was “Le Blaireau,” which translated means “The Badger. Badgers are wolverines and Hinault certainly was one in cycling. That is why he was referred to as the wolverine of the race. But actually that was not the intention of the French when the nickname was invented. By “Le Blaireau,” they actually meant that he had a grumpy/grouchy nature. Badgers grunt/grunt a lot and that was exactly what Hinault also did regularly to stand up for himself and the peloton.
But Le Blaireau also means shaving brush, because a real shaving brush is made of badger hair. This then made the link to the sweatband Hinault wore around his head early in his career so that his hair stood out like a shaving brush. It eventually turns out that Michel Le Denmat, a Breton rider with whom Hinault sometimes went on training rides, was the inventor of the nickname. He saw that Hinault, like the badger, never let go of his prey and had a tremendous will to win.
Hinault distinctly disliked cobblestones. For example, he refused to participate in the Tour of Flanders because of the Koppenberg, which he called “pure course cheating” after becoming acquainted with it in the 1978 edition. “As long as the Koppenberg is in the course you won’t see me at the start again” said the Breton. At that time the Koppenberg was not like it is now and the available equipment at that time was not comparable to now. He also had strong opinions about Paris-Roubaix. “A rider who can win the Tour de France has nothing to do with the sensation of Paris-Roubaix,” De Das said again and again. Until he finally did take part once and was immediately victorious. A victory achieved on the adrenaline of loathing on the cobblestones, but which would never change his vision of this type of race. Feel free to call it Hinault in full….
On Sunday, April 20, 1980, the 66th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège was held in the most unthinkable winter conditions. Of the 174 riders who started, only 21 would reach the finish line. The name Liège-Bastogne-Liège during this edition was quickly bastardized to neige-Bastogne-neige (neige is French for snow) and went down in legend as one of the toughest races ever. Here Bernard Hinault showed his unadulterated class and, above all, his stubborn Breton character. His drive to knock Merckx off the throne as the greatest of all time made him a beast.
At the start in Liege, the riders were already welcomed by snow showers. After the start, the precipitation turned into a veritable blizzard. After 70 km, half of the peloton had already abandoned. Rudy Pevenage attacked in Houffalize and was more than two minutes ahead on the Stockeu. However, on the Côte de la Haute-Levée, the escaped Rudy Pevenage was caught by an unleashed Bernard Hinault. With 77 km to go, Hinault also left Pevenage on the spot – Pevenage did not make it to the finish – and the Frenchman arrived solo in hatch. Nearly ten minutes later, Hennie Kuiper and Ronny Claes arrived.
Hinault had frostbite on his fingers and is still suffering from it. This Liège – Bastogne – Liège was also identified by Hinault as the cause of later knee problems. Pushing a large resistance for too long in the cold would have caused his knees to suffer too much, forcing him to abandon that year’s Tour with tendinitis.
Results of neige – Bastogne – neige 1980:
1. Bernard Hinault
2. Hennie Kuiper at 9’24”
3. Ronny Claes at 9’24”
4. Fons De Wolf at 10’34”
In any case, Bernard Hinault is a rider and a character never to be forgotten.
Patrick Van Gansen