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[an error occurred while processing this directive] banner Tuesday, 5 June, 2001, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
1978-1984: The Badger's golden era
1903-1914 1919-1929 1930-1939 1947-1956 1957-1966
1967-1977 1978-1984 1985-1990 1991-1995 1996-2000

The French had been spoiled by Louison Bobet and Jacques Anquetil plus their other winners during the 1960s and 1970s.

After the Merckx years - and Raymond Poulidor's failures - Bernard Thevenet's 1975 and 1977 wins had been a major relief to the host nation.

Bernard Hinault in French national jersey
Hinault: France's second five-times winner

But Thevenet was himself eclipsed by a blunt Breton they called "Le Blaireau" (the Badger), not so much for his personaility as his looks.

Bernard Hinault was not as good as Merckx - nobody could be - but he was as good a sequel as France could expect to the Belgian king.

Like Anquetil, Hinault did not suffer fools gladly and his five wins were marked with a series of rows with rivals and team-mates alike.

His Tour debut in 1978 will never be forgotten in France, as he emulated Fausto Coppi, Anquetil, Hugo Koblet and Merckx by winning at the first attempt.

  Tour winners
1978 Bernard Hinault (Fra)
1979 Bernard Hinault (Fra)
1980 Joop Zoetemelk (Ned)
1981 Bernard Hinault (Fra)
1982 Bernard Hinault (Fra)
1983 Laurent Fignon (Fra)
1984 Laurent Fignon (Fra)

It was 1979's win that was more like Merckx, as Hinault won the green jersey as well as the yellow, and took seven stages in the process.

But Hinault's unpopularity with his peers was also demonstrated in this race.

The bunch attacked after Hinault punctured on a cobbled section in northern France.

"There are some riders who will suffer plenty after what happened today," he warned, before proving they were not only hollow words.

Hinault pulled out while wearing the yellow jersey in 1980, die to tendinitis, and Joop Zoetemelk gained the Netherlands' second Tour win.

  During this era
Michel Pollentier disqualified for faking urine test in 1978
Riders strike in 1978 over split stages and transfers
1981 sees first Aussie in yellow jersey - Phil Anderson
Fact here
Sean Kelly takes green jersey for Ireland in 1982 and 1983
Britain's first jersey - the mountains prize - for Robert Millar in 1984
Lucien van Impe's 1983 polka dot jersey equals King of the Mountains record

In 1981 and 1982 the Badger returned to make more riders suffer, and even won the final sprint in Paris after his fourth win in five years.

This was also an era when English-speaking riders like Australia's Phil Anderson and Ireland's Sean Kelly began to make their mark.

Then, in 1983, Hinault sat out the Tour, some say because of a recurrence of tendinitis, others because of a row over money with his team.

That allowed France to cheer a new hero, a sophisticated bespectacled young Parisian called Laurent Fignon.

Laurent Fignon: Tour winner in 1983 and 1984
Fignon: Distinctive young Parisien

Fignon became yet another debut winner, but when Hinault returned in 1984 everyone expected the old man to equal the record of five wins.

However Fignon rode into his home city of Paris in yellow, beating the man from the country by 10 minutes and proving that 1983 had been no fluke.

Hinault would be back in 1985 to set a record, but the Tour and its riders were changing again and he would not find it easy.

1903-1914 1919-1929 1930-1939 1947-1956 1957-1966
1967-1977 1978-1984 1985-1990 1991-1995 1996-2000

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