Friday, April 16, 2010

la double flamme rouge

Between watching Icelandic volcano reports and trying to get a new iPhone set with appropriate apps before flying out of here for the L'Equipe archives in Paris, (and a detour north to Liege for the Ardennes classic) I have been piling up the research on the Lanterne Rouge book so I thought I would share some of it; btw I always capitalize Lanterne Rouge out of respect - after months of reading and research I think these guys deserve it, every bit of it, including a capitol L and a capitol R. One bit of research involves one of the true characters of the 1990's peoloton, he will be featured prominently in the book, former French Pro and current Eurosport commentator Jacky Durand.

Jacky was my first real Lanterne Rouge, I mean the one that somehow pedaled through my brain and stuck. It was the summer of 1999 and I was in Nairobi Kenya working on a documentary project spotlighting the horror faced by orphaned baby African elephants, eventually called Wild Orphans. Each night I would return home, grab a pint of Tusker lager and catch the few minutes of coverage afforded the folks in Kenya on the local 'tellie'. It's there I spotted Jacky Durand. He was being featured because he was not only doing what I later realized is pure JD, attacking like a man possessed (which may explain my like for Jens Voigt, they're cut from similar cloth), but he was also in firm possession of the Lanterne Rouge, eventually trailing U.S. Postal's Pascal Derame by a solid five minutes into Paris.

What made this red lantern burn doubly bright was the fact that JD had also locked up the coveted Le Prix de la combativité (The Combativity Award), also known in English as the most aggressive rider prize. In his own way making a mark on history, the double was a feat never before or since accomplished, but equally he laid to rest the ridiculous notion that Tour rouge riders are too slow, too lazy or simply just not up to the task. In Jacky's own words:

“I'm not a revolutionary of any sort, but on the bike, I've always refused to come out of a mould. It astonishes me that most riders are followers, even sheep. A lot of them, the only people who know they're in the Tour are their directeurs sportifs. I couldn't do the job like that. They finish the Tour without having attacked once, maybe the whole of the season, even the whole of their career. I'd rather finish shattered and last having attacked a hundred times than finish 25th without having tried. Yes, I get ragged about it, but it's always in a friendly way. In the bunch, the guys know that Dudu is as likely to finish a long way behind them as first.”[ L'Équipe, 14 July 2000]
And he had a history of being Le Prix de la combativité. Here is Jacky in 1992, one of the greatest 'attacks' in Tour of Flanders history - 217km remaining, longest break in the past three decades, ultimately winning on his own.

Ronde / Tour des Flandres 1992 : Jacky Durand l'inconnu

Probably few blog posts over the next few weeks as I TGV my way around France and Belgium, but will try and get a few things up, along with photos - cycling related and otherwise. To all of you out there racing hang in there, even if your bringing up the rear, and for pete sakes just once in a while, take a flyer or a JD, and attack!

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