On This Day in the Tour…….1978

7th July 1978

The 1978 edition of the Tour is perhaps best remembered as the race which announced the arrival of a certain Bernard Hinault on the world stage.  Hinault was already well respected by cycling fans and riders, yet his star rose infinitely higher the day he stood on the winners’ step on the podium in Paris in ’78, for the first of what would become five visits.

The 1978 Tour started without an overwhelming favourite – Merckx, Gimondi and Poulidor had retired after the 1977 season, and the winner of the 1976 Tour, Lucien Van Impe, was recovering from a broken collar bone.  Hinault, riding for Renault – Gitane – Campagnolo, was considered by some as the man most up for the task, although Joop Zoetemelk was also highly regarded, as was the Belgian National Champion Michel Pollentier.  Ultimately, Pollentier was thrown out of the race at the centre of a doping scandal after he won Stage 16 to Alpe d’huez, clinching the overall lead as well as the stage.  Pollentier was caught attempting to falsify a urine test by trying to pass off a clean sample as his own via a system of tubes worn under his jersey at doping control.

On the 7th July, almost ten days before Pollentier’s unceremonious removal from the Tour, the riders arrived in Saint Émilion, ready for an individual time trial to Sainte-Foy-la-Grande.  Of the men considered most likely to win the yellow jersey, Hinault was regarded as the best bet to perform well in time trials.  An all-rounder, Hinault not only excelled in TTs, but could maintain any advantage this skill provided him with by riding well in the mountains.  His all-round style even stretched as far as race types – The Badger won Grand Tours, Classics, World Championships…his talent was prodigious, and awarded him a deserved place in the history books.

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Photo: Hinault wears Yellow 

On the 7th July 1978, Bernard Hinault secured the first of many victories at the Tour de France, storming to success in the individual time trial that made up Stage 8 in 1 hour 22’01, a full 34 seconds ahead of the second place rider, Joseph Bruyère.   Bruyère had done enough to secure the yellow jersey, but The Badger was busy laying the foundations  of an impressive first Tour win, and had risen to 4th place in the overall classification.

If the ’78 Tour marked Hinault’s arrival as French cycling’s hope for the future, his actions on the road throughout the race also saw him secure his role as the patron de peloton.  Although only 23 at the time, Hinault commanded respect amongst his peers.   Fed up of the increasingly unfair treatment of the riders by race organisers, a strike was held on 12th July.  The day had been divided into two ‘half’ stages, a 158km flat stage from Tarbes to Valence d’Agen, followed by a further 96km from Valence d’Agen to Toulouse.  The previous stage on the 11th July had seen the riders tackle the climb from Pau to the finish at Pla’ d’Adet, and the transfer had meant that no one in the peloton had managed to get sufficient sleep.  The configuration of the stages had seen riders finally getting into bed around midnight, before getting up at 5am to continue the race.

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Photo: Hinault leads the peloton in protest, 12th July 1978

The peloton, lead by Hinault, staged a protest, riding at 12kph and arriving at the finish line an hour and a half behind the anticipated end time.  Within sight of the finishing straight, the riders dismounted and walked across the line, Hinault at the helm.  The Tour organisation was forced to annul the stage, and a legend was born as Hinault began writing himself into the history books, propelled by the blistering ITT of July 7th 1978.

Eneco Tour – Stage 2 Review

Photo: Rohan Dennis on his way to winning the TT in Bristol, Tour of Britain 2016

Tuesday’s Stage 2 time trial in Breda was won by Australian national TT champion Rohan Dennis in convincing fashion.  Dennis’ win on the 9.6km course puts him in the race leader’s jersey by 5 seconds from LottoNL-Jumbo rider Jos Van Emden, who took second place on the stage.

Pre-stage favourites Tony Martin and Tom Dumoulin were off the pace, coming in 20 seconds behind Dennis.  The short stage allowed the sprinters to finish strongly, with Sagan securing a top ten position in 8th place in a time of 11.05, and Kittel in 9th.  Movistar’s Alex Dowsett rounded out the top ten.

Dennis was pleased with his commanding performance, which bodes well for Stage 5 and the Team Time Trial.  “I took all the risks and kind of crossed my fingers every time I went through a corner…Today was as quick as I could possibly go”.  Sagan’s top ten finish saw him move up to third place in GC.  “He was the main guy that stressed me out” explained Dennis, “I was worried about him once Tom Dumoulin and Tony Martin had gone through”.  Dennis’ BMC Team are now in a solid position, with Dennis confirming “we’re here to win with either myself or Greg (Van Avermaet)”.

Reigning World Time Trial champion, Vasil Kiryienka, didn’t have a great day, arriving at the start ramp 45 seconds behind his allocated time slot, meaning the clock had started without him.  Rohan Dennis therefore set off only 15 seconds behind the Sky rider, overtaking him near the finish line.  Dylan Van Baarle was also late starting.

Tomorrow the race enters Belgium, with a route of 186km from Blankenberge to Ardooie.  The sprinters will once again be hungry for a stage win on rolling roads, although there may be a chance for a breakaway if riders can organise to hold off the peloton.