“Hinault, he’s a little grumpy but you have to know how to catch him,” jokes Luc Leblanc

A SMALL TOWER WITH … LUC LEBLANC – Winner of a legendary stage at Hautacam in 1994 ahead of Miguel Indurain, the former road world champion opens his box of souvenirs from the Grande Boucle.

Luc, what is your first memory of the Tour de France?

They were memories watching TV watching Raymond Poulidor, of course. As a Limougeaud, I followed the Tour de France and supported Raymond who was from Limousin, just like us. He was an icon, he must have been ten or eleven years old and I remember seeing him finish his last Tour on the podium.

What was your first great joy at the Tour de France?

It was the yellow jersey I wore for the first time at the end of the twelfth stage between Pau and Jaca in 1991. We started over 150 miles from the finish, three with Charly Mottet and Pascal Richard. The win was not for me (but for Charly Mottet, editor’s note) but I took the yellow jersey to Greg LeMond. It was difficult to manage … I was young, I was twenty-three years old, I had suddenly had a lot of pressure on my shoulders.

When did you shed your first tears at the Tour de France?

It was the loss of the yellow shirt, unfortunately the next day. I passed through an emotional roller coaster in a few hours. I cried with joy when I put it on and with sadness the next day when I took it off. He was inconsolable. Without this desire, he could have won the Tour de France. All this by a mistake of youth, a longing seventy-five miles from the finish. He was livid, white as a pill, and desperately looking for something to eat after finishing sixty miles alone. On the bike, I said to myself “But how will I finish this Tour de France?” And finally, the day after that day without, I was up front on a getaway! (River)

What object did you keep from the Tour de France?

The yellow shirt, of course! (laughs) I kept the yellow podium t-shirt I framed and the one I ran, I keep it that way. It’s nickel, it hasn’t moved. I never cleaned it. Also, I find the yellow of the time much prettier than the current yellow, which is lighter. I have been asked before but I will keep this one!

Which old runner would you like to share dinner with?

Bernard Hinault, because he is a friend as well as an icon. From time to time he is a little grumpy but you have to know how to catch him. He is a boy with a big heart and then there is also André Darrigade, whom I know well. I find that today’s young people tend to forget a little about the old and the history of cycling. For me, when I started cycling, I liked to talk to our elders because I always had the feeling of ensuring a kind of succession. When I met drivers like Rik Van Steenbergen, Francesco Moser had stars in his eyes, like when I met Jean Stablinki who unfortunately left us. I was almost part of his family.

How is Luc Leblanc cycling today?

Nothing! I left a long time ago. I had stopped after ten years of racing, then I picked up the bike for fun but a car hit me. I broke my collarbone and had a head injury. To say that during my career I have fallen many times and I have never had any problems … And there, these stories have revealed me. I prefer to run. There is no longer a bicycle in my house. My world champion bike, I had offered it to Louis Nicollin, but today I’m sorry. I tried to get him back with his kids, but they didn’t! (River)

Are there any runners you have lost sight of and would like to see again?

Yes, but it is impossible since he died: Marco Pantani. He was a discreet, humble and kind person. I got along very well with him. I would also like to see Miguel Indurain no longer come to the races. He was an earthling, discreet, too, like my friend Marco.

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