Laurent Fignon died from cancer, aged 50, on Tuesday, August 31. The French professional cyclist won the Tour de France in 1983 and 1984 and the Giro d’Italia in 1989.

Fignon also won Milan-San Remo (1988, 1989), La Flèche Wallonne (1986), Criterium International (1982, 1990), as well as stages of Paris-Nice and Vuelta a Espana among others.

Fignon will also be remembered as the rider who lost the 1989 Tour de France by just eight seconds to Greg Lemond.

Here we present a selection of photographs taken by Graham Watson that capture the essence of Fignon’s cycling career and the man himself.

Laurent Fignon
Laurent Fignon waves to the crowd on the Champs-Elysées after winning his first Tour de France in 1983.

Laurent Fignon, 1988 Paris-Roubaix
Fignon leads Steve Bauer and eventual winner Eddy Planckaert over the cobbles at the 1990 Paris-Roubaix. Fignon is one of the last grand tour winner to challenge seriously at the Hell of the North.

Laurent Fignon
Wearing the pink jersey as leader of the Giro d’Italia, Fignon outsprints world champion Maurizio Fondriest (right) and Aussie Phil Anderson (in blue) the 20th stage of the 1989 race at La Spezia.

Laurent Fignon
Winning the final stage of the 1987 Paris-Nice on the Promenade des Anglais.

Laurent Fignon
The joy is obvious at La Plagne. Fignon beats Spaniard Anselmo Fuerte to win a mountain stage in the Alps at the Tour de France. This is the day made famous by Stephen Roche’s incredible pursuit of Pedro Delgado and it is often overlooked that Fignon won the stage.

Laurent Fignon

Laurent Fignon, 1984 Tour de France
Wearing the red, white and blue as champion of France in the 1984 Tour de France. The blond hair and studious spectacles complete a look that will forever instantly recognisable as Laurent Fignon.

Laurent Fignon, 1984 Tour de France
Only Le Professeur, the Parisian bookworm who could at times be aloof, would cool his feet at the end of a hard day on the Tour de France with bottled water.

Laurent Fignon
The other Fignon trademark was the headband. Only he was insouciant enough to pull it off. Here he’s climbing to Morzine-Avoriaz in a mountain time trial towards the end of the 1983 Tour. Tenth place on the day was enough to preserve the yellow jersey.

Laurent Fignon climbs Mont Ventoux, Tour de France 1987
Time trialling on Mont Ventoux in the 1987 Tour. This was not a good day for the two-time champion. He was 64th – more than nine minutes down on stage winner Jean-François Bernard.

Laurent Fignon abandons 1990 Giro d
Standing hands on hips, alone against the mountains in the 1990 Giro d’Italia. The form was not as good as the previous year.

Laurent Fignon
At the team launch at the 1990 Giro. People made fun of the Castorama jersey and shorts design. It was made to look like the overalls worn by staff in the chain of DIY stores. As Fignon revealed in his autobiography We Were Young And Carefree, the design was a collaboration between himself and Cyrille Guimard and he was proud of it.

  • shaun robson

    Fignon, Hinault, Lemond, Arroyo…….the names I remember from first starting to watch Le Tour – all of them big personalities. And, it was interesting to read how much Fignon gave back to the sport outside of competition too.

  • Cavologuardi

    Le Professeur… dead at 50. effin’ cancer… again.

    It may have been Robert Millar’s exploits that enlightened those of my generation on this side of la Manche whose sporting lives had previously revolved around footie… it may have been Millar that introduced us to a new breed of hero… but foremost amongst those was the winner of that year’s Tour… and if anyone dared doubt the validity of his win the previous year in the absence of Le Blaireau, Fignon proved his class in that glorious summer of ’84. RIP Laurent.

  • Mark

    I read his autobiography recently, perhaps the best cycling book I have ever read, strikingly honest and very moving, a brilliant rider.

  • Julian Hayhurst

    What sad news. I’m really upset, what a loss. Laurent is one of the reasons why I ride a bike and follow the sport. RIP.

  • Mick Wakelin

    So saddened to hear of the passing of this great man, a true hero and one of my greatest heroes.

  • Ken Evans

    Not an all time great, but a very good rider.

    Like Anquetil, died in his 50s.

    Expect a big (media) funeral in France.

  • dylan

    such a shame i enjoyed his coments on this years tour such a young age rip

  • Douglas Tomlinson

    Very sad news indeed. A great character and a great champion. A real legend.

  • Mark Jones

    Such a sad loss. I started following the Tour in 89 and was a big fan of Lemond’s but now I think it is such a shame that Laurent didn’t have the chance to wear the Maillot Jaune in Paris that day. I used to have a Systeme U top and I wish I still had it to wear it on my cycle to work today out of respect for the great man.

    RIP Laurent

  • Sean

    What a competitor. Along with being a tour rider he could also win the one day classics, unlike the riders of today. Will always remember him for playing his part in the 1989 World Road Race Championships which is my opinion was the greatest finish of any one day race. Will look at it again tonight. Genuine cycling fans will always remember the competitor he was and that he was part of a great era in cycling.
    RIP to one of the great gladiators of cycling.

  • Chris

    So sad at just 50. I was on the Champs Elysee in 1989 to see the drama unfold. Great rider, great man. RIP.

  • Rich

    Extemely sad news for a great champion who was as much a fighter off the bike in the end too.
    Feel like part of my youth has died today, for like many he was also my hero as a junior while racing in France back in the day. RIP Laurent, true legend never to be forgotten,

  • Martyn Wilson

    Part of our family following cycling. We will miss him greatly. R I P

  • steve clarke

    very, very upset at this sad news….. just finished reading autobiography, what a loss and only 50 years old…. and I am 46………. RIP

  • Andrew Czaban

    Laurent Fignon turned me on to cycling in a big way. He always had such style and panache. Rest in Peace.

  • Mike from Hayling Island

    A great loss….one of the truly great French riders and a geat ambassador
    for our sport
    Rest in peace

  • st68

    a legend such sad news R.I.P laurent fignon

  • Brian Reynolds

    When I became interested in Cycling in 87, Roache, Kelly and Fignon were the big names. The first ever cycling jersey I bought was a System U with its yelow and white.
    The professor was a class act

  • Martin

    When I raced, I imagined I was him…………… my 44 years I only ever took one hero. A true riders rider. RIP

  • Andy Green

    Truly saddened by LF passing, a wonderful rider of the kind we don’t see today. I’ve just finished ‘We were young and carefree’, a superb book (Richard, keep reading it) – cannot believe this news. Reste en paix Laurent.

  • arronski

    RIP…..epic legend!

  • Darb

    Such a shame……….. Never forgotten.

  • richardh

    Very sad news, my first and only hero of cycling. I’m halfway through his autobiography, it’ll feel strange reading it now.

  • Steve Fagg

    A lovely tribute to the Professor. He was my first great cycling hero. I’m so sad to see him go.