Lisieux: Bernard Aubril’s memories before his final criterium after the Tour de France

Greg LeMond had signed autographs outside the New Galleries. ©Bernard Aubril’s personal collection

Lisieux (Calvados) will find its criterion on Tuesday, July 26, 2022. A special 39th edition, as it will be the last of Bernard Aubril, emblematic president of the Lexovian Cycling Club, in the organization. So it was time to open the memory box…

the beginnings

1981, Bernard Aubril, president of the VCL for four years, starts the first criterium after the Tour de France. Raymond Martin, who came as a neighbor, will finish second. © DR

“I was elected president of the Lexovian Bike Club in 1977. In 1980 we organized the first amateur criterium, in which I took part. A journalist from Pays d’Auge, Laurence Longuet, was there for the award ceremony. She comes to me and says, “Why don’t you do a professional criterium?” He suffered, and I said to myself, after all… There were already track meetings in Lisieux after the Tour de France, but they were often canceled because of the rain, the cement track became dangerous once wet

In 1981 we organized the first criterium in the city center, it was paid. It was Roger Legeay who won. But there are a lot of people who came back without paying, so we messed up financially. We thought about it, and we didn’t in 1982.

In 1983 we decided to do it around the campsite, in a much easier circuit to maintain. Indeed, there was not much fraud there, but because you had to pay, and cycling has the image of a free sport, we did not have enough tickets, about 3,200. Again, we had not managed to complete (the budget).

Then, we opened the door to a publicist who made sheets, and who was also passionate about cycling. He was the one who helped us in the first years at the Vall circuit. Advertising revenue was relatively satisfactory. We asked Mr. Baugé, the mayor of Lisieux, to double the city’s contribution, from the equivalent of €5,000 to €10,000, to allow free entry into the city center. Of course, the mayor said yes right away. Thus it became free and central, from 1987.

We also had the opportunity to catch the date of the first criterium after the Tour de France, as soon as Caen abandoned theirs. »

His best memory

Greg LeMond in Lisieux, a moment that Bernard Aubril is not ready to forget. ©Bernard Aubril’s personal collection

“In 1989 I got off my bike because I had just finished a team time trial in Lisieux. And there, I hear my announcer, Bernard Vattier: “Tomorrow, you will have the opportunity to see Greg LeMond, winner of the Tour de France!” Except I haven’t signed anything with Greg Lemond! I only have a verbal commitment, at the arrival of Paris-Camembert, in the back of his car where he kept his bike:

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“Hi Greg, would you be interested in doing the Lisieux criterium after the Tour?

“Where is Lisieux?”

– It is next door, 28 km away.

— I do (the criterion of) Callac on Tuesdays.

“That’s good, it’s Monday for us!”

He says ok and we agree on a price. But it was April.

So when I hear Bernard Vattier calling I say to myself that we must not dream, that he will not come, because he will be in great demand by the media, etc. Around 10:30pm on Sunday evening, a phone call at my house – it was Greg! He called me to say, “I got engaged to you, so I’ll be in Lisieux.” In the evening and the next morning, I received phone calls from televisions, radios, newspapers! I went to look for him at the Pont-l’Évêque interchange, I had the cameras in my car and many cars were following me. They are unforgettable and pleasant memories.

He went up with me and I asked him two things which he accepted: he took a picture with the students of the Franco-American center, and he spent half an hour signing in front of the Galeries Noves, the director was a partner of the time.

At the time of paying it, in the evening, we were at Solaris, the discotheque. We were discussing how much we owed him as he had won the Tour. He said: “We agreed in April when Paris-Camembert came, right? I gave my word”. I will never forget his honesty. »

The nicest runners

Aubril Virenque
Bernard Aubril talks to Richard Virenque, one of his favorites in the peloton. ©Bernard Aubril’s personal collection

“Greg LeMond is incredibly friendly. Richard Virenque too. I liked his punchy side. I remember the year Team Festina was kicked out of the Tour (note: 1998). They had the right to resume competition the next day of the Tour, so they resumed in Lisieux. All the televisions were there for Virenque, Brochard and company. At the start, I was with my flag, and I have a guy who taps me on the shoulder: it was a international federation doctor who wanted to check Richard Virenque. I take precautions, I go to Richard and say, “I’m upset, there’s a guy over there who wants to control you.” He said “no problem,” put the bike down and he went away With him there are almost friendly ties and perfect trust even though we don’t know each other more than that.

Thomas Voeckler is also one of the interesting figures. One year they came with their Europcar team coach to Place Mitterrand.

Aubril Voeckler
Bernard Aubril is all smiles, surrounded by Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland. © País d’Auge

In the new ones, Warren Barguil is a particularly nice guy. He is almost at the service of the organizer, I have rarely seen someone like that. On the day of the criterium it’s like I’m his boss, he does what I ask, and he always does.

Mikael Chérel is also very good. He did me a lot of favors at the Tour, because he knows a lot of people. Without him, I admit I would have struggled to get a running back like Michael Matthews back. He gave me the tickets, the phone, etc. That’s how it works, because on Tuesday morning I don’t have a signed paper, it’s the president’s word, and the broker’s word. I’ve never had any problems. I appreciated the quality of human relations with the runners. »

Exceptional cyclists

Gianni Bugno Lisieux
Double world champion, Gianni Bugno is one of the great drivers who drove in Lisieux. ©Bernard Aubril’s personal collection

The best runners who have come to Lisieux : “Richard Virenque, Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault, Gianni Bugno, Laurent Brochard, Marco Pantani…”

What I dreamed of wearing : “Lance Armstrong, even with all the flaws we can recognize in him and the image that stuck to his skin. I never tried to make him come, because I knew he was untouchable. »

The runners who disappointed him : “None. The only one who grumbled one day was Marc Madiot, who grumbled because we didn’t leave on time. It was on the circuit around the campsite. But I’ve never had a problem. »

Aubril Alaphilippe
With Julian Alaphilippe, polka dot shirt who has since become world champion. © País d’Auge

The difficulties

“Before, at the end of the Tour, the riders did a criterium round. They were all ten. It was a way for the leaders to reward their colleagues: they brought a colleague to such a criterion, left the contract, etc. Today they are reasonably paid and run on every continent, all year round. For example, Guillaume Martin told me yes, and called me again to say: “I’m upset, I’m going for a tour of Wallonia”. It’s normal, it’s his job. Cycling is becoming international, there are overlapping events.

Criterium Lisieux Archives
The president of the VCL is in his element, surrounded by cyclists. ©Bernard Aubril’s personal collection

Is it still possible to have the yellow shirt? Today there is no French rider capable of winning the Tour. Foreign brokers return to criteriums in their country of origin, at prices three, four, five or even ten times higher than those applied in France.

There is also the pandemic and all its health and economic consequences. Some companies are struggling and no longer giving. Others give, but less. Others have chosen to direct their aid towards the Olympic Games. This is not a criticism, it is an observation.

And I only hear about the Covid controls at the sporting level in cycling. At Roland-Garros, or for football matches, we don’t hear about it. Here again, as with doping, the bike is to blame. It has the power to annoy me. »

brochard lisieux
Laurent Brochard, world champion in 1997, is one of the big names in the criterium. ©Bernard Aubril’s personal collection

His greatest pride

“My happiness is the morning of the criterium, around 8:30 a.m., the meeting with all the volunteers. When I see hundreds of people on rue Henry Chéron waiting for me to tell them what to do, and they’re all there, it’s a sigh of relief. Because if they are not there, what do I do? This morning I received a call from a person I do not know, who comes from Orne, and who said to me: “I saw that you lack volunteers, my father and I are willing to help you.”

And during the race, it is the joy of the public. When I hear people screaming, that’s the best reward: people’s happiness. »

Criterion of Virenque Lisieux
Richard Virenque and his polka dot shirt in Lisieux. ©Bernard Aubril’s personal collection

The future of the criterium

“I will continue to follow from afar. As I leave the presidency of the VCL at the end of the year during the general assembly, I also stop the organization of the criterium. The successors will do as I did, get the shirt wet, or decide not to get wet -la. I will not participate in the organization at all, because it is all or nothing. I will not bring any criticism, if there must be criticism.

Will I miss it? No, we get used to it. It’s not easy. Tuesday evening at 11.15 p.m. Michael Matthews was on the phone, Wednesday morning it was Valentin Madouas… I have no regrets, it’s fun, but it takes time. »

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