VENDOME, France (VN) — Bernard Hinault, the last French rider to win the Tour de France, will leave his public relations position with ASO after this year’s Tour de France.
Tour officials confirmed Monday that Hinault, 61, will finish out the Tour this summer. The “Badger,” who won his fifth and final Tour in 1985, joined the Amaury Sport Organisation in a PR role in the 1990s. He welcomed winners and VIPs onto the Tour podium and other races ASO organizers throughout the season.
“I will be 62 in November,” Hinault told AFP. “I have a grandson who is 16 months old, and I was never there for my own kids, so I want to be there for my grandson.”
Hinault returned to his beloved farm in his native Brittany after retiring from pro cycling in 1986, but he became a permanent fixture in the Tour caravan each July. He would glad-hand VIPs and fans at the start village and finish area daily, along with tersely answering questions from nosy journalists.
A typical exchange would go like this:
“Bernard, why hasn’t a French rider won the Tour in so long?”
“Because they are soft,” he would retort.
“Bernard, what does (rider X) need to do to win the Tour?”
“Attack! Bien sur! It’s not complicated.”
As one of four riders who won the Tour five times, Hinault never took a shining to Lance Armstrong during the Texan’s seven-year domination of the Tour. When Armstrong was banned for life in the 2012 U.S. Anti-Doping case, Hinault infamously replied, “I could care less. If I saw him today, I would not say hello to him. I would not shake his hand.”
Hinault’s attacking style carried over into his post-racing career, and he jealously guarded the Tour podium from any would-be intruders. Any attempts to invade or disrupt the post-stage protocol would be met with the full brunt of the “Badger’s” unleashed rage. Hinault shoved more than a few over-zealous fans unceremoniously off the stage.
“I will leave the Tour in good hands,” Hinault told AFP. “I will still be around, I just won’t be doing the 140 days a year I am doing now.”
Tour officials said they have not yet considered who might replace Hinault in the PR role.