Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eight Seconds of Fame

My heart sank this today with the news of Laurent Fignon's passing. Sank. Like it had unclipped and refused to turn the pedals a single revolution further.

Fignon died of cancer which had been chasing him down over the past couple years. He was one of the first riders I ever remember seeing race the Tour. And he raced it.

The old saying about 15 seconds of fame - well Laurent Fignon was twice as good as most of us, he only need 8 seconds to immortalize himself in our cycling memories. The Tour de France will forever be connected and pass through that 8 seconds on the Champs-Elysee in 1989.

In a CyclingNews article on Fignon's life it quoted, "Cycling is a big family and when a young former champion dies at just fifty years of age, it cannot but move us," former Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc said on the France Info radio station. "His death has come too quickly and too soon." He was only 50.

Greg Lemond was quoted today in the French media, "He was a great person, one of the few that I find was really true to himself. He didn’t have an ego. He really knew himself."

Over and over today in my mind's eye I kept replaying that moment in Paris in 1989 when Fignon crossed the finish-line and had collapsed, literally and figuratively in defeat to American Greg Lemond by 8 seconds - no other Tour before or since was reduced to such a fine line between victory and defeat. That image of him wilting in exhaustion and heartbreak also reflected Fignon's future - never again would he ride the Tour or any race with the same panache and schoolboy aggressiveness as before. When he finally retired in 1993 he conceded the fire was gone he said. Laurent Fignon was not someone who could ride without fire.

Part of what I enjoyed most about Fignon was that his fire on the bike was within him, it was honest intensity and he wore it off the bike as well. I'm sad that I don't know French well enough to have heard his TV commentary - it reportedly also had fire and honest intensity, took no prisoners in its criticism of riders and directors. Equally you did have to ride a bike to earn his criticism. A story goes that he said that the French never did like him when he was winning, but after losing to Lemond by that 8 seconds, he never had to buy a drink, the French love a loser.

Laurent you were definitely no loser - ever - and today even your countrymen know and recognize that.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Haven't pedaled off into the sunset

Yes, it's been very quiet here the past few weeks - but occasionally all grown ups have to take a break from the bike - like the owners of Cervelo almost did these past few days... luckily for a few soon-to-be-out-of-work-pros Garmin jumped in and reshuffled the deck. And wow! what an off season, as soon as I get a free moment I'm unlocking the archives and searching for a more tumultuous "off-season" - although there still is a Vuelta in Spain, the Worlds downunder and my personal favorite the 'Race of the Falling Leaves' around Lake Como, the race beloved by Il Campionissimo himself, Fausto Coppi - the Giro di Lombardia - what a gorgeous race.

Anyway, I have been back at my day job, down in on the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, trying to document how BP managed to create the world's greatest human-caused environmental disaster and what will be the downstream impact of all that oil they some how can't seem to stick a dipstick into?

If you are curious you can follow my work on a couple blogs - Gulf Oil Spill Project and one focused on the photojournalism specifically called Gulf Coast Photo Project.

I am back in the NW this weekend to do the RAPSody Ride around Puget Sound up in Washington with my awesome tandem partner Jenn - a write up and photos first of next week.

Great fall riding everyone - and be safe out there!