"In my first Tour de France, this is the happiest day in my life."
In 1983 Laurent Fignon was the youngest rider to win the Tour de France in 50 years. At 22 years of age he was four years younger than Georges Speicher who had won in 1933. One of the most interesting things about Fignon's career was that he came to be team leader of Renault-Elf due to an injury Hinault was nursing. At first the team was prepared to work for Laurent and Marc Madiot, targeting stage victories for the white jersey. Fignon must have been feeling great because after the 9th stage (the first in the mountains) he was second only to Pascal Simon. At this point he became the team leader and Renault used all they had to defend yellow. Simon broke his shoulder blade and eventually had to abandon, leaving Laurent on top. Without a doubt, he made an extraordinary effort to fend off his opponents and take overall, but he was lucky both Hinault and Simon had been injured. If Hinault had competed that year there is no doubt everyone would have been working on Renault to get him to the podium. A small string of luck got Laurent a huge win and the nickname 'The Professor'. No first-year rider has won their first Tour de France since Fignon in '83.
Fignon proved to France and the world that he could easily hold his own when he consistently countered attack after attack from Hinault in the 1984 Tour. He convinced everyone that the year before was not a fluke and rightfully put his name in history forever. The saddest part in his career is the eight second margin which saw him lose the Tour de France in 1989. I have to say one of my favorite videos to watch is Stage 21 from Versailles-Paris. Something about the way Laurent's hair flows as he rolls down the ramp, trying to defend yellow; one of the best moments in cycling history. Watch it here.
With a string of victories, including the Giro in '89 and back to back Milan-San Remo wins, there is no doubt Fignon was one of the greats. He will always be remembered and will continue to inspire.