Bernard Hin­ault

The five-time win­ner of the Tour de France talks to Cy­clist about the ASO, not obey­ing or­ders and why money is the root of all dull rac­ing

Cyclist - - Interview - Words PETER STU­ART Pho­tog­ra­phy LISA STONEHOUSE

Cy­clist: You’ve ended your work as am­bas­sador for ASO, or­gan­iser of the Tour de France. Why did you make the move and what are you do­ing now?

Bernard Hin­ault: I am re­tired. With com­pe­ti­tion and all of my ac­tiv­i­ties I have been work­ing with ASO in one way or an­other for 42 years. That’s fin­ished now. I have two grand­chil­dren who I’d like to see grow up. The whole thing has made me think about how my grand­fa­ther spent time with me, and all the things I never got to do or see with my chil­dren, which I now want to do with my grand­chil­dren. I’ve missed lots.

Cyc: ASO has been at odds with cycling’s gov­ern­ing body, the UCI, over how rac­ing should be struc­tured. What do you think will hap­pen?

BH: Com­ing out of the World­tour is the only so­lu­tion for ASO, and chang­ing the cat­e­gories of rac­ing. It’s not a mat­ter of sep­a­ra­tion, it’s just that the UCI doesn’t think enough nowa­days. Cyc: Where do you think the UCI has gone wrong?

BH: There’s one so­lu­tion – what must hap­pen is that a team doesn’t get money for turn­ing up to race, but for re­sults. Take the sys­tem for foot­ball. You have the Premier League, first divi­sion and so on, and if you’re in the bot­tom three of any divi­sion, you’re out. It’s as sim­ple as that.

If we had the same struc­ture for cycling, the di­recteur sportif would say, “You have to go out and race, be­cause if you don’t we’ll all be thrown out by the end of the year!”

Cyc: How do you see that be­ing put into ef­fect?

BH: That’s where ASO has to use its author­ity and say this is how we’re do­ing things. By leav­ing the cur­rent sys­tem, the race or­gan­is­ers can im­pose the num­ber of cy­clists in a race, then they’re not obliged to take all the pro teams and those who don’t want to be part of the race can stay at home. It means that all the rid­ers in a race will fight every day, and that will change a lot of things. If you come to the Tour de France and treat it like a hol­i­day, the next year you won’t be in­vited to race.

Cyc: Which cur­rent races do you think are the most ex­cit­ing to watch?

BH: I gen­er­ally watch three races. The Tour of Gabon is great and shows the evo­lu­tion of African cycling – they don’t worry about the money in­volved, they just race. I find it fas­ci­nat­ing, be­cause there’s so much progress in African cycling. I also watch the Tour de Bre­tagne be­cause although it’s third cat­e­gory they go out and race hard every day. And the last tour I watched was called the Tour of the Fu­ture [Tour de l’avenir], which is en­tirely made up of young and tal­ented kids.

Cyc: How do you feel about the on-bike cam­eras that we’ve seen re­cently?

BH: When­ever we have th­ese im­ages within the race, it’s fan­tas­tic for the pub­lic. When there’s a sprint or a moun­tain climb you can see much more than from the TV cam­eras or the he­li­copter. P

I don’t know whether the rid­ers some­times think, “What can we do to make the peo­ple want to watch cycling on TV even more?” It isn’t enough for them to just ride tempo for most of the stage and then race for an hour every day.

Cyc: Do you think the pelo­ton could ben­e­fit from a pa­tron, like you were, to keep the rid­ers in or­der and re­duce the num­ber of crashes?

BH: In terms of crashes, we need to change the bikes to adapt to our cli­mate con­di­tions. At the mo­ment, many rid­ers are too ner­vous, so as soon as some­one brakes, they slip. Car­bon rims are very good when dry, but ter­ri­ble in the wet.

It seems the rid­ers are against disc brakes, but that’s non­sense. If I was a pro racer now, I would have disc brakes, cer­tainly. It’s the most se­cure brak­ing sys­tem, whether it rains or not. There are no more ac­ci­dents as a re­sult of them. Disc brakes have ex­isted in moun­tain bik­ing for over 20 years. Do any more rid­ers get in­jured be­cause of them? No. Cyc: What about the gashes we’ve seen in some rid­ers’ legs which have been at­trib­uted to disc brakes?

BH: It’s a chain­ring, cer­tainly, be­cause it’s im­pos­si­ble for the in­juries to be from a disc ro­tor given where they are. In Dubai, when a rider [Owain Doull] said [Mar­cel] Kit­tel’s disc ro­tor opened up his shoe, you could see the shoe had rust marks on it, so it was clearly cut on the edge of a bar­rier.

Rid­ers need to stop talk­ing rub­bish, and they need to start think­ing. When you don’t want a cer­tain prod­uct, you try to think of all the ex­cuses you can to avoid hav­ing to use it. You need to work at it, to im­prove the prod­uct.

Cyc: What else would your ad­vice be for rid­ers to­day?

BH: In the first place, rid­ers need to be more in­de­pen­dent, so you don’t have the di­recteur sportif be­hind you telling you what to do all the time. In the case of Ro­main Bardet at the Tour in 2016, his di­recteur sportif said he dis­obeyed his or­ders [when he at­tacked on Saint- Ger­vais Mont Blanc], but he wouldn’t have fin­ished sec­ond if he hadn’t. And if Froome hadn’t got up from his crash, Bardet would have won the Tour. To­day, be­ing a di­recteur sportif is all about money. It’s al­ways the same.

‘It’s true that if I had wanted to I could have won more Tours. But it’s not just about say­ing I’m the best be­cause I’ve won the most’

Cyc: Who is your favourite racer from your youth?

BH: There were two. The first is An­quetil, be­cause he won. The sec­ond is Mer­ckx, be­cause he won. You look at those two at that age, and take a lit­tle of both to cre­ate your­self as a rider – Mer­ckx be­cause he won ev­ery­thing, and An­quetil be­cause he was just cool.

Cyc: Were you ever tempted to try to win a sixth Tour de France?

BH: Why, what’s the point? Would I have been hap­pier if I’d won six in­stead of five? I was able to play and have fun in my last two Tours [1985 and 1986]. It’s all about the game, about the plea­sure. It’s true that if I had wanted to I could have won more. But it’s not just about say­ing I’m the best be­cause I’ve won the most. ]

Bernard Hin­ault was in­ter­viewed at the Ronde Tahi­ti­enne in Tahiti. In­ter­view con­ducted in French and trans­lated.

Bernard Hin­ault Age: 62 Na­tion­al­ity: French Hon­ours Tour de France win­ner 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985 28 stage wins Giro d’italia win­ner 1980, 1982, 1985 6 stage wins Vuelta a Es­paña win­ner 1978, 1983 7 stage wins World Road Race Cham­pion 1980 Paris-roubaix win­ner 1981

Bernard Hin­ault has al­ways been out­spo­ken and he isn’t mel­low­ing with age. On the pro pelo­ton’s op­po­si­tion to disc brakes he says, ‘Rid­ers need to stop talk­ing rub­bish’

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