Bernard Hinault interview: ‘To win the Tour, I would have punished my rivals in Yorkshire’

Tour de France legend shares his thoughts on Grand Depart

Legend can be an over-used word, certainly in sport, but the achievements of some mean it is almost not strong enough of a description.

Bernard Hinault is one man who certainly fits into such a category, a legend of cycling so great he is revered in some quarters almost as a deity of the sport.

Five Tour de France wins and ten Grand Tours in total, the world championship, Paris-Roubaix, the Giro di Lombardia – his palmares is packed with success on the biggest stages of all.

Bernard Hinault shared his thoughts on Yorkshire’s Grand Depart at the Y14 event in Harrogate

So when he speaks, you most certainly listen and Hinault has some words of advice for the WorldTour’s elite as they prepare for the Tour de France Grand Depart in Yorkshire.

The big occasion is now less than 100 days away, the milestone having been celebrated in Harrogate yesterday (March 27), and Hinault was among the guests invited to the White Rose county.

And having been on a recce of the route for stage two – a stage many think could be one of the decisive ones in terms of the final destination – he shared his thoughts on how to approach it with RCUK.

He said: “Having been on the last 90km of the second stage, I can say it is very difficult – there is a lot of climbing and they are difficult climbs.

“For me, it was easy – I was just in a car – but those roads, for the cyclists, will be difficult. There are some very fast downhill sections too, which are very technical.”

Not that ‘difficult’ routes ever held back Hinault in his prime of course – the thought of him putting his rivals to the sword in the Yorkshire Dales certainly does not take too much imagination.

As the likes of Greg LeMond and Dutch icon Joop Zoetemelk will attest to, this is a man who thrived on ‘difficult’.

And the Badger has some very simple advice for the leading contenders – Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) among them – if they are to stay in contention after stage two.

One for the palmares: Hinault and Brian Robinson were presented with personalised Grand Depart jerseys

Hinault explained: “It is a stage set for the sort of riders who are in peak form. The ones who, on the start line, are at 100 per cent condition.

“For a rider to win this Tour, they know they can’t just turn up and be at 60-90 per cent level. It will be a very exciting stage, and very challenging.”

Hinault’s passion for cycling is certainly something which has not been diminished in retirement – unsurprising given roles he has taken on such as an advisory position for Team Raleigh.

Fittingly, he still reads the roads and routes as though it were him riding them too.

And the Frenchman insists, if that were the case, his rivals would be in for the fight of their lives in Yorkshire as he looked to rid himself of the leading contenders before the race even hit France.

He said: “We think that the stage will have a big bearing on the race, and that one of the big contenders will win but don’t forget it is the riders themselves who decide a race.

“If they don’t attack, maybe it will not turn out how we expect.

“But if it were me racing this, I would do everything to try and be in super condition, right from the very start. I would have tried to get rid of some of my main competition out there on this stage. I would have really tried to open the race up immediately.”

With a palmares as glistening as Hinault’s, it is certainly advice well worth heeding for the current generation when the eyes of the word turn to Yorkshire in July.


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