Fignon's claims about the legality of Lemond's 1989 aero bars

Jul 1, 2010
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I've just begun reading Fignon's (RIP) autobiography. I always admired him, and while I was very much a Lemond fan in my youth, I was glad that Greg had a rival with the class of a Laurent Fignon. I was actually lucky enough to be in France for this year's Tour, and listening to his gruff, cancer-ravaged voice on the TV broadcasts really made me sad. He was a great champion and will be missed.

Anyway, very early in his book he makes the unequivocal claim that the aero bars Lemond famously used in the 1989 Tour's final time trial were patently illegal, and that Lemond's victory is tainted at best, or a travesty at worst. Watching back then, I remember that Lemond's bars were considered innovative, risky, even revolutionary. But not "illegal." Does anyone here have any insight into the facts behind Fignon's claim? (Beyond just sour grapes, that is -- and I have too much respect for him to suspect that it's just sour grapes.)
 
Mar 31, 2010
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Fignon has always been a bad loser. nothing but good about the death they say but he siad most horrible things about colombia and colombian riders as well amonst other things claiming they were all on coke and he himself even used it while racing in colombia. I have zero respect for that guy, he's a liar, but probably one that believed his own lies.
 
I doubt they were illegal, probably simply not regulated. Remember the futuristic TT bikes people were using in the mid 90s until the UCI banned them for some reason? I imagine it could have been similar with those bars.

Oh gods I loved Boardman's Lotus.
 
Nov 17, 2009
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I do know that all the riders (including Fignon) were given the ability to use them (prior to the first TT in the race I believe). It wasn't a suprise that Lemond used the bars... he asked for permission from the race directors... got it... and everyone else was notified that they had the option as well.

Of course, few would use them not having had time to train on them. And I have no idea if the directors made the correct "legal" decision to allow them... perhaps the cycling rules at the time should have led the directors to say no.

But everyone was given the opportunity.
 
Apr 11, 2009
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hrotha said:
I doubt they were illegal, probably simply not regulated. Remember the futuristic TT bikes people were using in the mid 90s until the UCI banned them for some reason? I imagine it could have been similar with those bars.

Oh gods I loved Boardman's Lotus.
Agree. The UCI hadn't had time to evaluate them.

Re the futuristic bikes -

Agree about the Lotus
Also the ONCE team's yellow Looks were lovely but Indurain's Espada was an abortion of a machine.
 
Aug 13, 2009
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They were not illegal and Lemond was not the only rider using them. Some of the 7-11's used them that year as well.
 
Apr 26, 2010
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kurtinsc said:
But everyone was given the opportunity.
Exactly, they just didn't take it. The bars were seen as revolutionary and unnecessary, just a fancy decoration. Some doubted that of course, but Fignon, who was still a bit of the old order, refused to use them and claimed that nothing useful could be done with them. Sadly for him, Lemond did not see it that way.
 
May 5, 2009
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To some extent Fignon might be right, as the aero bars were possibly a bit in the grey zone and there was no time to approve it and they were probably not yet UCI approved.

However, he had the choice, decided against it and was wrong. But even more importantly, he decided NOT TO WEAR A TIME TRIAL HELMET, so that's where he lost the seconds and lost the Tour. Wrong decision. Lemond won. Full stop.

Fignon was a great and respected rider and an even better commentator.
 
Sep 9, 2009
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From memory of the autobiography, when Fignon tried to use them at another race that season he was explicitly told he could not - I can well imagine how he would feel justified in feeling very aggrieved.

I know there's a mythology around the closest tour and Lemond winning in that fashion, but personally it makes it by far the least glorious of Greg's 3 wins.
 
Jul 4, 2009
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...apparently ( and this is also being filtered thru a long stretch of memory so bear with me ) a couple of weeks after the 89 Tour Fignon was not allowed to compete in, I believe, the Eddie Merckx Grand Prix because his bike had an aero-bar...supposedly it's use violated the three point rule which had been put into place after the Italian World TTT squadra showed up with "hip belts" in 88...

...why was LeMond's victory allowed to stand?...it has been said it was for much the same reason Moser's Hour Record was allowed to stand...politics...the story is that not only was the USA seen at the time by the bike racing industry as the promised land but the Tour organizers themselves had a major stake in any expansion into the USA...so it was in the interests of a lot of people to have an American Tour winner...so just like the Italian Federation ran cover for Moser after the Hour Record and retroactively had his bike approved, the 3 point rule was over-looked/massaged...

...were the bars illegal?...I guess it depends on who ultimately was making the rules and for whose benefit...

Cheers

blutto
 
Feb 27, 2010
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OMG! Look it up, just do a bit of research and you'll find that the UCI approved the bars well in advance of the '89 TdF. LeMond used them in the first TT in that years TdF so it was no surprise to ANYONE when he rolled on them in the final TT.

Many riders were also wearing the TT "helmets" (fairings), which Fignon chose not to wear.

Saying LeMond's win was tainted is like saying a victory for a racer using Campy's 11 speed Record group is tainted because other riders are using 10spds, etc, etc......
 
Jul 30, 2009
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joe1265 said:
Saying LeMond's win was tainted is like saying a victory for a racer using Campy's 11 speed Record group is tainted because other riders are using 10spds, etc, etc......
+1

Back in those days companies would introduce new tech at the Tour to try and get the advantage. The UCI later changed their regulations forcing the tech to be pre-approved but back then a rider could show up with some crazy set-up and ride it before the UCI had a chance to ban it. Case in point Thierry Marie and his nutty seat w/full backrest:

 
Jul 4, 2009
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joe1265 said:
OMG! Look it up, just do a bit of research and you'll find that the UCI approved the bars well in advance of the '89 TdF. LeMond used them in the first TT in that years TdF so it was no surprise to ANYONE when he rolled on them in the final TT.

Many riders were also wearing the TT "helmets" (fairings), which Fignon chose not to wear.

Saying LeMond's win was tainted is like saying a victory for a racer using Campy's 11 speed Record group is tainted because other riders are using 10spds, etc, etc......
...in point of fact a lot of people were surprised...you have to remember LeMond was/is touted as an innovator which implies he did something innovative as in something that was innovative,beyond the pale, unanticipated...so the idea "that it was no surprise to ANYONE" is a bit hard to swallow given the way that moment has been replayed since 89...

...it would be interesting to see the reference for that UCI approval of the bars....

Cheers

blutto
 
Aug 13, 2009
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blutto said:
...apparently ( and this is also being filtered thru a long stretch of memory so bear with me ) a couple of weeks after the 89 Tour Fignon was not allowed to compete in, I believe, the Eddie Merckx Grand Prix because his bike had an aero-bar...supposedly it's use violated the three point rule which had been put into place after the Italian World TTT squadra showed up with "hip belts" in 88...
Sean Yates won the 1989 GP Eddie Merckx, he rode the Boone Lennon/Scott bars just like he did in the Tour.

The bars were cleared prior to the Tour. This is a non-issue
 
Jul 4, 2009
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on3m@n@rmy said:
as much as I respected LF's achievements... sour grapes (although I understand why after losing the biggest race that way by 8 secs)
...would be nice if your understanding included a reason why Fignon was not allowed to use tri-bars in a post Tour race....because without that ( and I'm very sorry to say this ) your "sour grapes" response comes across as just a bit of a cheap shot...

...the 89 Tour result, Moser's Hour Record, Nakano's "victory" over Singleton...these are all interesting chapters in cycling history that are all based on some very novel interpretations of the rules as they existed at the time....they could all merit a spirited discussion...that discussion will probably reveal the place that politics and commercial interests had in how the cycling game was played at the time...and given how the drug issue drags on probably still does though in a more hidden way...same players, different issues maybe...

Cheers

blutto
 
Jun 19, 2009
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blutto said:
...in point of fact a lot of people were surprised...you have to remember LeMond was/is touted as an innovator which implies he did something innovative as in something that was innovative,beyond the pale, unanticipated...so the idea "that it was no surprise to ANYONE" is a bit hard to swallow given the way that moment has been replayed since 89...

...it would be interesting to see the reference for that UCI approval of the bars....

Cheers

blutto
Fignon reputedly tried and trained with them during the Tour and voiced no interest in using them. As everyone noted he eschewed the helmet as well and some commentary suggested this was a display of hubris (he thought there was no way he'd lose and vanity. He was interested in the glory shot for the publications. His biggest complaint, I recall: he had to do the final TT with bad saddle sores.
Reconstructing history wasn't his strong suit or a good idea but he had all the same opportunities.

Also: when the Tour started very few gave Lemond a shot to take it in '89.
 
blutto said:
...would be nice if your understanding included a reason why Fignon was not allowed to use tri-bars in a post Tour race....because without that ( and I'm very sorry to say this ) your "sour grapes" response comes across as just a bit of a cheap shot...

...the 89 Tour result, Moser's Hour Record, Nakano's "victory" over Singleton...these are all interesting chapters in cycling history that are all based on some very novel interpretations of the rules as they existed at the time....they could all merit a spirited discussion...that discussion will probably reveal the place that politics and commercial interests had in how the cycling game was played at the time...and given how the drug issue drags on probably still does though in a more hidden way...same players, different issues maybe...

Cheers

blutto
Okay.?. I'm not sure I understand why your comment that "...Fignon was not allowed to use tri-bars in a post Tour race..." is important to this discussion, because I was only commenting on what happened at that 1989 Tour (not what happened after the Tour). NOW, if you are saying Fignon was not allowed to use tri-bars/aero-bars at the 1989 Tour, then THAT'S different. And if it's true he was not allowed to use them at the Tour then Fignon would have reason to be unhappy about it when LeMond did use them... AND I would have to retract my sour grapes judgement.
 
Aug 13, 2009
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blutto said:
...apparently ( and this is also being filtered thru a long stretch of memory so bear with me ) a couple of weeks after the 89 Tour Fignon was not allowed to compete in, I believe, the Eddie Merckx Grand Prix because his bike had an aero-bar.
Pretty sure Sean Yates won the GP Eddie Merckx in 1989.....and he used the bars.
 
Jul 4, 2009
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Race Radio said:
Pretty sure Sean Yates won the GP Eddie Merckx in 1989.....and he used the bars.
...as I mentioned not really sure about the race but it was a time trial soon after the Tour....sorry couldn't be more specific...

Cheers

blutto
 
Jul 4, 2009
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on3m@n@rmy said:
Okay.?. I'm not sure I understand why your comment that "...Fignon was not allowed to use tri-bars in a post Tour race..." is important to this discussion, because I was only commenting on what happened at that 1989 Tour (not what happened after the Tour). NOW, if you are saying Fignon was not allowed to use tri-bars/aero-bars at the 1989 Tour, then THAT'S different. And if it's true he was not allowed to use them at the Tour then Fignon would have reason to be unhappy about it when LeMond did use them... AND I would have to retract my sour grapes judgement.
....the discussion is about the "legality" of the use of tri-bars in the 89 Tour....Fignon claims they were "illegal" in part because of what we called the 3 point rule...and it was, in some versions of the reading of the 89 Tour history, this "illegality" that dissuaded Guimard/Fignon from using tri-bars...now for whatever reason the results of that Tour were allowed to stand, however at a race just after the Tour that tri-bar system was deemed "illegal" and Fignon, whose bike had them, was not allowed to ride....

...the point is that nothing, to my knowledge, had changed between those two races...the regs were the same...so what applied to the post Tour race should have applied to the Tour...it obviously didn't and there-in lies the mystery...

...now there was one more twist to this that involves another definition of what was "legal" and could in some race official's mind be the defining point for what things are "legally" aero or not ( the three point rule only tangentially applied to things aero, though in the 89 case it definitely has a place in the Tour "legality" decision )( and this twist may explain the Yates reference mentioned previously)...and keep in mind the UCI may have been flailing around a bit here because their onerous ban on all things aero was about to blow up big time....and some of their rules to hold back the aero tide were meant for a different era and their applications to modern ideas were sometimes pretty strange....for instance, for a short while the LeMond 89 Tour set-up was "illegal" because it was an add-on but one piece DH bars were allowed because you couldn't use anything for a pure aero-dynamic advantage but if it was built into a necessary component it was allowed...hence disc wheels were finally allowed because the disc surface was deemed primarily a structural part of the wheel ( like a huge one piece spoke ) and only incidently an aero-dynamic aid...in this period of UCI regs there was a huge amount of hair-splitting and it was even dumber than one could today possibly imagine....and everyone and everything was subject to interpretation and usually amid mass confusion...

...by the way still waiting for that reference to UCI regs vis-a-vis tri-bars prior to the 89 Tour....a quick look at those regs might answer a lot of questions....inquiring minds want to know!...

Cheers

blutto
 
I remember the same as Oldman. That during the 1989 Tour, and specifically on the morning of the final ITT, Fignon tested the bars himself, and didn't like them, and chose not to use them. Just as he chose not to wear an aero helmet, or even a cycling cap tucking his hair underneath.
 
Ryo Hazuki said:
Fignon has always been a bad loser. nothing but good about the death they say but he siad most horrible things about colombia and colombian riders as well amonst other things claiming they were all on coke and he himself even used it while racing in colombia. I have zero respect for that guy, he's a liar, but probably one that believed his own lies.
I think your comments, in light of his recent death, are classless.

One has to contextualize the moment in which Greg used the bars. It may very well be that Fignon had believed they were, at that time, despite, ok's by the race organizers, not officially recognized by the UCI as legal. Whatever the case, this whole issue is rather besides the point.
 
Ryo Hazuki said:
Fignon has always been a bad loser. nothing but good about the death they say but he siad most horrible things about colombia and colombian riders as well amonst other things claiming they were all on coke and he himself even used it while racing in colombia. I have zero respect for that guy, he's a liar, but probably one that believed his own lies.
I think your comments, in light of his recent death, are classless.

One has to contextualize the moment in which Greg used the bars. It may very well be that Fignon had believed they were, at that time, despite ok's by the race organizers, not officially recognized by the UCI as legal. Whatever the case, this whole issue is rather besides the point.
 
Alpe d'Huez said:
I remember the same as Oldman. That during the 1989 Tour, and specifically on the morning of the final ITT, Fignon tested the bars himself, and didn't like them, and chose not to use them.
He has explained time and again that he was not confident about it. Bikes have to be tested long before and you can't change them at the very last moment. That's what he said in an interview to Sporza. In his book he said he was not sure about its legality and did not want to use illegal bars for what might have been minimal advantage. The fact that he came up with it at the GP Merckx and the Baracchi Trophy and all the other TT's of the end of season proves that under other circumstances he chose for it.

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Sour grapes, him? Have you all ever heard his interviews or read his book?

The guy actually suffered three major injustices: The Giro farce in 1984, the tri-bars and the EPO era. If he still felt bitter about the Giro farce, he just said about his loss in the Tour de France 1989 that he coped on his own and about the EPO era, that he was just at the twilight of his career.

He had reason to complain about the three cases and yet it seemed to me in interviews or in his book that he definitely did not want to be regarded as a crybaby.

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Did Sean Yates used the bars at the GP Merckx? coz' Fignon was definitely kept from it because of the 3 point rule, don't tell me it did not exist. The judge who applied the rule, Nicolas Ledent, was the very SAME judge who gave LeMond a green light a few weeks before. It was a scandal at that time and it made the headlines, here. My dad remembers it very well. Merckx was furious.
http://www.cyclismag.com/article.php?sid=5353

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Moser's pseudo-Hour record definitely was a farce too. Remember that he used the same bike during the Verona ITT. This alone makes his Giro win tainted (remember the helicopter case that made every non-French laugh).

I've heard comments made by Théo Mathy who said something like:

"Though technology development is closely linked to the history of the Hour Record, one thing has always been said: No air penetration enhancing. With Moser, the Hour Record was perverted."

Remember that at the age of 42, Mister Moser could still be faster than Merckx with those fake bikes.
 

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