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You are in: In Depth: Tour de France  
[an error occurred while processing this directive] banner Tuesday, 5 June, 2001, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
1985-1990: American, Irishman and Spaniard
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The middle year of the 1980s was very much a transitional one for the Tour.

It would turn out to be the last French win for at least 15 years, and the last before the emerging English-speaking riders began to enjoy success.

The Tour climbs the mountains
By now the Tour was a huge affair

Laurent Fignon was defending champion but Bernard Hinault was desperate to join Anquetil and Merckx in the record books as a five-times winner.

The emergence of the American Greg Lemond, third in 1984, looked as big an obstacle as Fignon, who eventually pulled out of 1985 due to injury.

The man with the big grin from Colorado was the best of a new generation of American riders.

During the 1980s Lemond spearheaded an English-speaking invasion from all corners of the globe.

Aussie Phil Anderson led the race and finished on the podium while the Irishman Sean Kelly won the green jersey.

Even Britain got in on the act with Robert Millar becoming the 1984 King of the Mountains.

  Tour winners
1985 Bernard Hinault (Fra)
1986 Greg LeMond (USA)
1987 Stephen Roche (Irl)
1988 Pedro Delgado (Spa)
1989 Greg LeMond (USA)
1990 Greg LeMond (USA)

In 1984 Fignon and Lemond had been team-mates.

Now Hinault had to share his squad with "L'American" - and what a struggle they would have in their two years together.

Hinault got the better of his young team-mate in 1985, effectively because of team orders that prevented Lemond from attacking the veteran.

The Frenchman promised to assist Lemond the following year, but had a strange idea of help - effectively an attitude of "cruel to be kind".

Hinault repeatedly attacked Lemond during a memorable Tour.

He insisted that he was still riding for the team since the exercise was testing the American's worth as a champion and eliminating his rivals.

Lemond was unconvinced and believed, like many others, that Hinault could smell a record sixth victory.

In the end the American dug deep and was already leading the race when the pair memorably rode with linked arms to the summit of L'Alpe d'Huez.

Hinault was the stage winner and King of the Mountains. Lemond was set to become the first non-European winner of the Tour.

The American's success changed cycling forever, proving that you did not need a traditional background to win the Tour.

His hard-faced attitude to cash also drove up riders' salaries towards the level of other sports.

  During this era
Sean Kelly's 1989 green jersey was his fourth - a new record
An era of narrow wins - eight seconds for Lemond in 1989, only 40 for Roche in 1987
Columbian Luis Herrara was forging a new era for another country, winning the 1985 and 1987 mountains jersey

But a hunting accident stopped Lemond from defending the title in 1987.

With Hinault having retired it was left to a second English-speaker to triumph.

Ireland's Stephen Roche memorably beat the Spaniard Pedro Delgado.

The Dubliner bravely limited his losses in the foggy Alps and needing an immediate supply of oxygen at the summit of La Plagne.

Roche's 1988 defence was destroyed by a knee injury, leaving the road clear for Delgado.

He won despite testing positive for a substance banned by the Olytmpic authorities but not by cycling's rulers, the first of modern cycling's doping controversies.

But the English-speakers had their hands back on the yellow jersey the following year - in the most dramatic of circumstances.

A resurgent Fignon held the race lead going into the final stage in Paris, and a third Tour win, six years after his first, looked reasonably certain.

Certainly the Parisien did not expect to lose 50 seconds in a short 24km time trial through his own city, despite saddle sores.

But Lemond began an aerodynamic revolution on the banks of the Seine, using auro bars and a low profile bike to win the Tour by an incredible eight seconds.

Greg Lemond after winning the 1990 Tour
Lemond celebrates his third win

A disbelieving Fignon had lost the Tour in the blink of an eye and Lemond had completed a remarkable recovery after the shooting incident.

He repeated the feat in 1990 - a strange Tour that saw an early group go away before Lemond steadily chipped away at their lead and gained the yellow jersey on the final weekend.

But three wins was as many as Lemond would manage, and it was the man who came tenth in 1990 that was to be the star of the 1990s.

The Miguel Indurain era was about to begin.

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1967-1977 1978-1984 1985-1990 1991-1995 1996-2000

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