I just finished reading “Slaying the Badger” by Richard Moore. It is the most gripping, exciting, blah, blah, blah, blah about cycling that shows the drama, intrigue, and gritty blah, blah, blah of the human blah. Every time I finish reading a book about bicycles I smash out the windows, kick the dog, and swear that I’ll never, ever read one again. Until the next time.
Then I pass it on to a close friend as the ultimate measure of passive aggression.
Anyway, “Slaying the Badger,” which is well written and not completely uninteresting, reveals some shocking, little known facts about Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond. For example:
- Hinault was not a nice person.
- LeMond was a whiny little bitch.
- Winning the Tour is hard.
- Cycling is hard.
- Hard races are won by hard men.
- Hardy, har, har
The book was so successful that ESPN made it into a full-length motion picture of 30 minutes, which is 29 minutes longer than the attention span of the very smartest football fan. So basically, now that it’s a video, no one will ever read the book.
My biggest criticism is that the author left out my own experiences with Hinault, which confirmed that which no one ever doubted: He is truly an asshole. However, sometimes a monstrous, self-absorbed asshole runs up against an equally monstrous, equally self-absorbed asshole, and that’s really where the fun begins.
It was at the last stage of the 1985 Coors Classic in Boulder, a crit. Since Hinault had spanked LeMond in the Tour, he agreed to ride for him at the Coors Classic. Greg had it sewn up. Before the race Greg patiently stood in front of an endless line of fans and signed autographs. I waited and he signed a piece of paper for me.
Then I watched the race. Somebody went faster than everybody else and was declared the winner. Immediately after the race, the Badger peeled off the course to head for the hotel. I was standing right next to him as he slowed to about 5 mph. “Monsieur Hinault,” I said in my best French. “Combien pour vos sous-vêtements?”
He snarled just as I realized that I’d asked him how much for his underwear. Then I corrected myself. “Puis-je avoir un autographe?”
“Non,” he snapped, and nastily pedaled away.
Five years later I was an official interpreter at the World Road Race Championships in Utsunomiya, Japan. It was Sunday, September 2, the day of the pro road race. Part of my duties were to secure the entrance to the VIP grandstand. Tanaka-san gave me explicit instructions. “Do not let anyone in here before 8:00 AM.”
“Anyone?” I asked.
“Anyone,” he confirmed.
“Okey-dokey,” I said.
About an hour later the coach of the French national team came up with a couple of other French flunkies. The coach looked suspiciously like the Badger. He was snarling something in such an angry voice that it made spoken French sound like the language of the body snatchers. Hinault barged his way up to the entrance gate, where I stood.
“Move,” he said in English.
I stared down at his tiny smallness. From far atop the mountain of my towering six-feet-two-inches of height I spied the tousle-headed little newt far below me. He craned his neck up and thrust out his chest, which had bristly spines of curly hair angrily poking out from his unbuttoned golf shirt.
“Nope,” I said in French.
“I say move!” he ordered again, this time taking a step forward, grabbing his plastic ID badge with his name on it, and pulling out the lanyard until the badge was stuck under my nose. “You know this, eh?” he snapped.
I slowly read his name out loud, taking my time while he steamed like a clam. “Bernard He-nalt,” I said, giving it my best Texas accent.
“Now you move!” he said, inching closer.
“Look buddy,” I said. “I don’t know who you are, and don’t care if you’re a five-time winner of the Tour de France. Nobody gets in before 8:00 AM. Especially no short people.”
I braced myself for the punch, certain that he’d understood enough to be thoroughly insulted. His face turned bright red and I kept looking at him with a relaxed smile on my face, thinking about that autograph and underwear sale he’d denied me five years earlier in Boulder.
Then the Badger did the unthinkable. He turned on his heel and stormed off. I almost shattered my rib cage from holding in the laughter.
Top that, ESPN.
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