Guest Article: Anatomy of a Photo: The Rise and Fall of the Badger

Guest Article: Anatomy of a Photo: The Rise and Fall of the Badger

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If we were meant to fly, Merckx would have given us wings. But he did give us two wheels and Physics. The first allows us to feel like we’re flying, and the second gives us the propensity to fall over and, as such, crashing – or the fear of crashing – is the constant companion of a cyclist. Our first experiences on a bicycle as a child probably involved a crash; if not on the first ride, then at least on a ride soon thereafter.

But crashes also help forge legends, as was the case in 1977 when a young upstart, Bernard Hinault dropped into a ditch at high speed. I’ve seen this photo before, but I’ve never seen the video (below) and therefor never had an appreciation for how deep and steep the ditch really was. Hinault is indeed lucky to be alive.

Alpin continues his V-Blitzkrieg by treating us to a Frenchman’s view of Le Blaireau and his incredible fall.  Enjoy.

Yours in cycling,

Frank

The 63th edition of the Critérium du Dauphiné has just finished. At this time of the year it’s traditionally the warm-up for the Tour and many top racers came here years after years.

Many of you must already know this picture. It was taken the 4th of June 1977 at 15h22  in the last hour of the 6th stage of the Criterium in the rapid descent of the Col de Porte en Chartreuse to Grenoble. Just under the Col de Vence there is a very treacherous  and sinuous part of the road at 11% which faces the valley a half mile below.

Even today  after having take this corner time and time again, one cyclist must take extra care on this very spot: the surface of the road is a little better but the danger stays the same.

In France, this picture is entitled to fame for many reasons:

  • For a start, well,  it’s good photography.
  • Secondly, it’s historically the first time the name of Bernard “The Badger” Hinault made the headlines in France and it immediately transformed him into an icon of the sport.
  • Thirdly, the event of the incredible fall was live televised, then rerun in loop for days, with one of the first usage of the telephone for a Live interview of Bernard Hinault at the hospital.
  • Finally, it’s the epitomization of  epic: a combination of  danger, tragedy, doubt and heroism…no less. Yes, he’ll get  another bike, will finish the descent at insane speed, will get on with the last climb of La Bastille at 18% with some corners over 25%, put his feet off the bike, claiming his exhaustion, re-mounts the bike, forced by his DS, pushed by some locals, gained some energy at last before the summit of this terrible ascension, and by accomplishing that will allow himself to win the stage and his first Dauphiné the day after. Now that’s the V personified for me..

Perhaps some details of this picture interrogate some of us fellow cyclists: no helmet, no glasses, no cycling cap, no visible cuissard, nor cycling shoes or even a bicycle. Only the rear pockets of the jersey and the gloved hand pointed to a spectator could indicate that here’s a cyclist.

Maybe, this other photograph of the event coming straight from the historic live footage could help me to illustrate my point:

There is something missing.

Something that doesn’t put me at ease at all.

Nothing to see there

The two pictures exemplify for me the intimate connection between the cycling racer, the road bike and the road of the race.

Here you can see neither nor bike or road, it’s in the absence of the two that demonstrates the Unheimilichkeit of this event. The sheer tell of speed and danger. Hinault hadn’t  hurt himself so badly that he couldn’t take the start the day later but as he said repeatedly and humbly to cameras:

I thought  I was dead, I thought it was the time.

You can see the video footage of the Fall and Rise of the Badger here at the Archive for National television ( INA). The title of the film is “La Douleur et la Gloire“.

Or, on Youtube with modern commentary added.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alNJ6pwQrNo&feature=player_embedded#at=110[/youtube]

 

// Anatomy of a Photo // Guest Article

  1. Money is highly overrated. But a good camera, a good bike, razor sharp tan lines, smoove legs, a sharp kit from a local club (or the Sacred Garments), and a decent VO2 max? Now that’s living.

    But writing excellent articles, posting excellent photos, and climbing historic mountain passes whenever you want because you live just down the road? Ok, now you’re rubbing it in.

    Got a couch I could live on?

  2. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    10-15 years ago, I was involved with lots of friends who were skaters, snowboarders, alpinists
    and obviously here,skiers,( mostly of the “extreme” kind..) None of them had EVER any money
    but day in / day out, they were riding all friggin days and by all legal and illegal means :
    These guys would never leave the bests spots, sleeping for days in garages or technical cabins at 6500 feet alt. : i think ameri-canadians got a name for this kind of tribe who feast on the Big Resorts hidden ressources: SKi-BUMS…

    So,you too can come here when you want …
    living the “Cycling Bum Bohème Life”

    It’s great! )

    PS : who needs a couch when you got full access to a nice Chalet up the in Vercors Mountains?

  3. Money is definitely overrated!

    I’m still in graduate school so don’t have much money, but what I do have goes exclusively to cycling needs. I need new soccer cleats, I can’t remember the last time I bought clothes, but I eat well, have nice cycling gear, and definitely have sharp tan lines.

    Whatever makes you happy!

    The only thing in life I desire/crave/lust for is a shed or basement to store/work on my bikes. Right now I’m crammed in a small house with my VMH, my cats, my dog, and the five bikes I can fit in here.

    Alpin, I think you have things sorted out nicely!

  4. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    Dammit, Alpin! Stop living my dream life. It’s not fair.

    Yeah, Seriously.

  5. frank:
    @Jeff in PetroMetro

    Dammit, Alpin! Stop living my dream life. It’s not fair.

    Yeah, Seriously.

    Haters. ;)

  6. We’re good people, us three geezers, and WE LOVE nice bikes and RESPECT a certain cycling dress code, but when installed cosily at the bar down the Col as we were ordering a bottle of Cotes-du Rhone with steak-frites AFTER having drinked 1 or 2 beers and that’s about the time that you see AT LAST the slow motion of an overweight, overdressed clown on an overexpensive bike trying to maintain his two Boras in line, we couldn’t think of him as anything else of a COTHO.

    I hear ya, Alpin. I get annoyed by such people as well. I think the main issue is that it bugs me that they can’t/don’t put such a nice tool to use. Using a full on PRO race bike to roll around at low speeds…why bother?

    I also enjoy dudes who dump thousands of dollars into track bikes that are used solely for coffee and beer runs. Yeah dude, you definitely need the Dura Ace hubs to ride those three miles to the bar!

    Oh well, there are COTHO all over the place. Better to just ignore them and ride.

  7. @Alpin
    Beautiful post about Le Blaireau, one has to love him and his overpowering competitiveness. He is the French V. Andy Hampsten, speaking about his joining Hinault’s team, had nothing but praise for him. Hinault was protective and helpful to the young North Americans.

    AT LAST the slow motion of an overweight, overdressed clown on an overexpensive bike trying to maintain his two Boras in line, we couldn’t think of him as anything else of a COTHO.

    ( Obviously they were Germans. But that’s no excuse.)

    Beautiful sentiment and story. You are a man who loves cycling for the cycling itself. Well played.

  8. @Alpin, crazy post. There is something about Le Blaireau that always fascinated me, especially when he talks about helping Lemans win the ’86 tour. His mouth says one thing his eyes say something else. Nonetheless he is Le Cinq Francais or COTHO depending where you stand

    I’ve been to Pau, sacre bleu!, good beer and wild boar sausages made up for all the wasps I swallowed. I concur with @PetroMetro you do live my dream life. You lucky lucky bastaad.

  9. Great Post @Alpin.

    I’ve watched that footage a couple of times now and I’m stunned that he survived that. Given the speed he went off the road at and the steepness of the hillside below, the fact that he climbed out at roughly the point he went off and wasn’t a good way downhill can only suggest that he hit one of the trees, most likely the one used by the chap who dropped down to help him out.

    A hard man indeed that carries on rather than saying “fuck this for a bike race I need a beer…”

  10. @Alpin

    an overweight, overdressed clown on an overexpensive bike

    Says the skinny guy in all BMC bike and apparel.
    Just teasing you N, that whole $3000 geared guys making fun of $8000 geared guys… I saw an abandonned Peugeot on the street the other day, same one Thevenet won the Tour with in 1977. Might be good enough for most of us then, eh?
    Don’t forget it’s a way to get second hand niiice bikes we couldn’t afford otherwise… (plus you know I love my Rapha jersey man!)

    Seriously, great article, and I’m glad you did not tell me about that very corner down Col de Vence last time we rode it, I would have been WAAAY slower.

  11. OOoOOOhh ?
    Is there another Alpine Citizen from Grenoble in the place ?
    Hello John!

    Nice to see u there!
    Still Ok to ride the Cols these next days ?
    Oh ! And as a”real” Velominatus Budgetatus :
    I should inform you that you can find BMC framesets for 300e(!)
    if you really search… like i did myself, couldn’t even think about adding another 0 …
    All other peripherals were coming from my defunct/crashed Cannondale CAAD9 Liquigas… and some third hand gear…

    Can’t blame you also for wearing Rapha…
    Overpriced but tasteful gear and goes so well with your Cervélo S1 ride! ‘-)
    see you soon!

    ———Ad————–

    Handy notes for Velominati Budgetati :
    Aluminium rules !!!

    -BMC SSX StreetFire
    -Cervelo S1
    -CAAD 8 or 9

    choose your weapon !

    ———-Ad———–

    By the way, did you know that Bernard Thèvenet was living in Grenoble for 10 years now ??? Perhaps it is HIS bike that you see on the street ? )))

    I am now preparing myself for a mystical ride : The Mirror of the Alp…
    If i should come back from this adventure : I’ll send here some Postcards tonight !

  12. @J

    I saw an abandonned Peugeot on the street the other day, same one Thevenet won the Tour with in 1977. Might be good enough for most of us then, eh?

    You picked it up, right? You now have this bike in your possession, right? Please provide pictures over on The Bikes.

    Welcome.

  13. (the bike was too small. Thank you for the welcome)

  14. First off, I’m a big Hinault fan. Plenty of the V displayed over the years and a lot of today’s riders could copy his example of riding hard in any and every event. For example, he hated Paris-Roubaix. Most riders with this attitude would have avoided it like the plague. Hinault? Rode it, won it and never raced it again. Done.
    That being said, I was going through some old Miroir du Cyclismes the other day (just rescued them from the parents’ attic) and was looking at the Miroir du Tour 88 issue. I know Hinault had a lot of endorsements in his day, but it appears he had his own line of jewelry. “Ligne de Bijoux en Or Bermard Hinault” by the Paris-based jeweler Desmeure. Three options: a wee bike for a necklace (650FF), a chainset pendant 2800FF), and a bracelet (5900FF). All purchases came with a certificate of authenticity in your name signed by Monsieur Hinault. There’s even a lovely pic of the badger leaning over a saddle wearing a necklace, two bracelets and what appears to be a signet ring on his right hand. I wish I had scanning abilities at work to post this, but who knew there was Badger bling? Hard as nails he certainly was, but a jewelry line? Hmmmmmm . . . . gotta be some kind of rule violation there somewhere.

  15. Just a point. Hinault also rode P-R in 1982 as defending champion, finishing 9th.

  16. It’s funny how the myth that he only rode it once and won it has been disseminated so widely – I’m pretty sure he rode it in ’79 too, but an exhaustive search of my archives (well, five minutes anyway…) can’t turn up a result (DNF?). He also rode several secteurs in the Tour de France during his 1979 win and 1980 DNF, riding well on both occasions.

  17. Oli,
    My apologies. Should have checked my facts better, but I guess it just shows how strong the myth is. Found this interview with Hinault on the Gitane site. Very interesting. Clearly, for BH, the bike was just a tool of the trade, if it made you faster, great; if not, no use. For BH, it’s all about the riding rather than the bike. http://www.gitaneusa.com/Hinault.asp

  18. No need to apologise at all, I live for situations like this! As I say, that myth has been perpetrated for years, including in some of the big name magazines – they are the ones who should be checking their facts…

  19. @Oli

    It’s funny how the myth that he only rode it once and won it has been disseminated so widely – I’m pretty sure he rode it in ’79 too, but an exhaustive search of my archives (well, five minutes anyway…) can’t turn up a result (DNF?). He also rode several secteurs in the Tour de France during his 1979 win and 1980 DNF, riding well on both occasions.

    I’m no expert in these things and certainly wouldn’t question your encyclopaedic knowledge but could your suspicion that Hinault rode the Paris Roubaix in ’79 be down to the fact that the ’81 race was the 79th edition of the race? I got this from “One more kilometre and we’re in the showers”.

  20. Haha! No, I doubt that was the thing. As I said, I’m pretty sure but not certain. That’s trawling the depths of my memory though, so it’s entirely possible I’m wrong. Anyway, it doesn’t change the fact that he definitely rode P-R again in 1982…

  21. @Oli
    Did some checking on Hinault’s P-R record. Rode it in 1980 and finished 4th. In 1981 he won and in 1982 he was 9th. 1983 is hard to tell. Hinault traveled to the US to ride the Tour of America. However, regulations required him to ride the Classics and the T0A coincided with P-R so he had to return (on Concorde)to ride it. (I’m assuming that in 83 the ToA was unsanctioned by the UCI or not part of the Super Prestige competition). My sources are unclear as to whether he started and abandoned, but he didn’t place. He wanted special dispensation to ride the T0A but didn’t get it. Hinault was a big fan of the US and worked with Michael Aisner to improve the safety and quality of the Coors Classic.

  22. Thanks Wiscot, great stuff! It must have been the 1980 race I was thinking of, rather than ’79. The myth is well and truly exploded…

  23. excellent post! I found it in a pretty indirect way: I was telling a friend about how Hinault almost abandoned on the Bastille and wanted to confirm it (having never done so before). that took me to video of his famous big air off the road before the Bastille… which made me wonder where exactly that happened (since I live in Grenoble too, and ride those roads with some regularity) which brought me to your post. Anyway, I don’t fault slow old guys on nice bikes because I am now officially one of them. I do enjoy a good high speed descent though :) Now to go buy some Boras. And I’m a ‘ricain, not German. Maybe I’ll see you on the cols.

  24. Love this pic BRR posted up today;

    OK LADS, I READ THE NEWS AND THE MAIN STORY IS YOU'RE ALL FUCKING SLOW AND I'M THE BOSS.

    OK LADS, I READ THE NEWS AND THE MAIN STORY IS YOU’RE ALL FUCKING SLOW AND I’M THE BOSS.

    This is the transition of technolgy era, bikes with areo levers running with toe clips and vice versa, velco shoes on The Badger. What you don’t see anymore is the blow waved hair!

  25. @sthilzy

    Love this pic BRR posted up today;

    OK LADS, I READ THE NEWS AND THE MAIN STORY IS YOU'RE ALL FUCKING SLOW AND I'M THE BOSS.

    OK LADS, I READ THE NEWS AND THE MAIN STORY IS YOU’RE ALL FUCKING SLOW AND I’M THE BOSS.

    This is the transition of technolgy era, bikes with areo levers running with toe clips and vice versa, velco shoes on The Badger. What you don’t see anymore is the blow waved hair!

    Is that you pulling up over to the right because you can’t keep up?

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