The Badger: The Life of Bernard Hinault and the Legacy of French Cycling

The intro reads “The thrilling life of France’s finest cyclist Bernard Hinault is one of the greatest cyclists of all time”.  And it may be spot on. Bernard Hinault is a five-time winner of the Tour de France and the only man to have won each of the Grand Tours on more than one occasion. Thirty plus years after his retirement, Hinault remains the last Frenchman to win the Tour de France, and his victory in 1985 marks the turning point for a nation who had dominated the race they call their own.

Hinault at the 1982 Tour de France
Hinault at the 1982 Tour de France (photo courtesy of

As Americans we remember Hinault’s battles with teammates Laurent Fignon and Greg LeMond that were some of the greatest moments in Tour history. These are old school rivalries, similar to modern day Chris Froome and Aberto Contador  and are brought to life in this compelling book.

Cycling fans will love this book and will be glued to it like their saddles. The book brings the story of Bernard Hinault to life through interviews and in-depth reading about his career, the races, the rivalries and the passion that the French people have for cycling. Certain points of the book go into in-depth more then you would expect. Details about races, events that most people would never remember.

The Frenchmen’s professional career, which ran from 1975 to 1986, was illustrious. This book goes into all the details, the ups and down, the victories at the one-day classics, including winning Paris-Roubaix in the Rainbow Jersey. Hinault was one of few cyclists to be able to dominate one-day classics in the grand tours. No other cyclist since his time has really ever been able to accomplish this. Over 11 years he rode for three professional teams, including Gitane-Campagnolo, Renault-Elf-Gitane and La Vie Claire, which included Greg LeMond at the time.

The book, published in September 2015, covers 332 pages and 15 chapters and is almost entirely intense reading; only a handful of color photos appear in the center of the book. If you are a bike freak this book is a must read.


William Fotheringham is the cycling correspondent at the Guardian newspaper, covering the Tour de France as well as the Olympic Games. He launched Cycle Sport magazine in 1993 and ProCycling magazine and website in 1998. He is the author of A Century of Cycling; Cycle Racing; Fallen Angel; Half Man, Half Bike: The Life of Eddy Merckx; and Put Me Back on My Bike.

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