Double Tour de France winner Laurent Fignon dies at 50 years of age
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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Double Tour de France winner Laurent Fignon dies at 50 years of age

by Shane Stokes at 8:05 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
1983/1984 champion passes away after long battle with cancer

Larent FignonJust one month after he worked on this year’s Tour de France as a consultant for France 2 television, the former top professional Laurent Fignon has passed away.

The 50 year old won the Tour de France in 1983 and 1984, and finished just eight seconds behind Greg LeMond in the 1989 edition of the race. It was the closest Tour in history and followed on from Fignon’s triumph earlier that year in the Giro d’Italia.

He also won back-to-back editions of Milan San Remo in 1988 and 1989, the 1986 Flèche Wallonne and two editions of the Critérium International.

Following a twelve year career, Fignon retired in 1993 and worked for a time as the race director of Paris-Nice, eventually handing over the event to Tour de France organisers ASO in 2006. He started his commentary role with France Television in 2006, continuing as a consultant after he announced he was suffering from advanced stomach cancer in June 2009. It was later discovered that the disease had started in his lungs, then passed into his digestive tract.

"You either fight or you die," Fignon said then, in an interview with Journal du Dimanche. "I have no desire to die, but I'm not afraid. I'm not particularly brave nor fearful.”

He battled the disease and, for a while, appeared to be making progress. Then, a setback: Fignon said that a type of chemotherapy had succeeded in shrinking the tumours by 17 percent, but was forced to stop using that particular product as his body had very strong side effects to it.

In January Fignon spoke with Paris-Match about the ongoing battle. “Despite my treatments during the last seven months, my cancer has barely diminished,” he said. “I will start new chemotherapy next week. I am not dead, but I am not healing, either.” He promised to fight on, saying that he didn’t want to give up.

He was forced to cancel his commentary role in Paris-Nice and had problems with his voice, but was able to work on this year’s Tour de France. There was a memorable – and now poignant – moment with former rival Bernhard Hinault during the race, when the two appeared on the Tour podium together and embraced.

While he said that his illness had not responded to treatment, he stated that it was stable and didn’t appear to be progressing. As a result, France 2's announcement today of his passing will come as a shock to many.

Some reactions have started to come through. "I liked him first as a rider,” said Eddy Merckx to Radio Monte Carlo. “He was a compete champion. One cannot win the Tour de France if you are not a complete rider. And then he was also a man of great honesty. He always gave his opinion, he would not beat around the bush. He was also someone who was very intelligent, he always had a very good analysis of the race.

“Unfortunately, he left us too soon. 50 years is far too young!”

John Lelangue, Belgian sports director with the BMC Racing Team, paid tribute on Twitter. “So sad to hear about Fignon. Great champion, great man, great TV analysis. RIP.”

Former French pro Cedric Vasseur is also mourning his loss. “Black day for cycling. Disappearance of a great champion Laurent Fignon.”

“Sad news today. Rest in peace Laurent Fignon,” wrote Scott Sunderland. “He was a champion and a great man.”

The experienced journalist Rupert Guinness gave just one of many heartfelt press reactions. “Just learned that Laurent Fignon passed away today. Very sad news. He was a champion, classy guy, and helped me when I needed a break.”

Broadcaster David Harmon echoed this appreciation, having worked alongside him as part of the Tour commentary corps.

“It’s a huge shock…he had looked so well and positive on the Tour,” he told VeloNation. “I guess for me I remember him, like I remembered Sean [Kelly], as a hero first and then met him as a colleague after. He never question my ability to question him and to try to understand bicycle racing. If I was wrong, he would say so; if I was right he would equally say that.

“He was always, always the patron, we all looked to Laurent for a lead. The very last time I saw him he was surrounded by a dozen journalists and former professionals who all hung on his every word about the actions of Alberto Contador when Andy Schleck unshipped his chain in this years Tour de France.

“For the record, he said he was absolutely right to attack...just like he would have done. I wish I'd known him a lot better than I did but it was a huge privilege to know him and I will miss his presence very much.”

Many more such tributes are certain to be paid today to one of the most memorable of champions of the 1980s.


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We at VeloNation would like to extend our sympathies to Laurent Fignon’s family, friends and colleagues.

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