Laurent Fignon, winner of the Tour de France in 1983 and 1984, has died from cancer aged 50, according to the French television station TF1.

Fignon was born in Paris in 1960 and began cycling in his teens. He won the first race he rode, in 1976.

He turned professional for the Renault-Elf-Gitane team in 1982 and quickly began winning races. The following year, aged only 23, he won the Tour de France at the first attempt. In 1984 he won the Tour again, taking five stage wins in the process.

Injury and illness blighted the next few years, although he still managed to win some big races – including Flèche Wallonne in 1986, a stage of the Tour de France at La Plagne in the Alps in 1987 and Milan-San Remo in 1988 and 1989.

It was in 1989 that he again reached the summit of the sport, winning the Giro d’Italia – a race he had been controversially beaten at in 1984 when the organisers cancelled a big mountain stage because of snow, which favoured his rival Francesco Moser. It was later revealed that the roads were clear.

The 1989 Tour was one of the greatest of all-time and saw Fignon locked in a battle with his former team-mate Greg Lemond. They took turns to wear the yellow jersey and it all came down to a time trial in Paris on the final day. Fignon led by 50 seconds in the morning but Lemond, using the revolutionary triathlon-style handlebars that are now common, beat him to clinch the Tour by eight seconds – the narrowest margin ever.

Fignon always objected to being thought of as the man who lost the Tour by eight seconds and would remind people he had won it twice.

He retired in 1993, after riding for the Italian Gatorade team for the final two seasons of his career.

Fignon bought the company that organised Paris-Nice but eventually had to sell it to ASO because of financial difficulties.

In recent years he was an acerbic but witty and analytical pundit on French television.

Earlier this year he wrote his autobiography, We Were Young and Carefree.

Related links
Tour de France video archive: 1989, Lemond and Fignon
1989: The greatest Tour de France ever – comprehensive list of articles and stage reports from the ’89 Tour

  • Robert

    “Earlier this year he wrote his autobiography, We Were Young and Carefree.”

    I believe that was June 2009, not earlier this year. you may be thinking of the english translation which was published earlier this year.

  • Steve tucker

    Very sad news. Laurent Fignon was one of my all time heroes. He was a true bike racer never afraid to attack. I remember watching him in one of the cobbled classics (cant remember which one ) on the cobbles he jumped from the bunch across a two minute gap to a chasing group, non of them would work with him so he jumped again across another minute gap to the next group who also woulnt work with him so they all failed to catch the leaders.
    In the 1989 tour it was Fignon who made the race for me, constantly attacking Lemond and was the moral winner in my opinion, not wishing to take anything away from lemonds victory.
    For me I remember him more for the gutsy rides in the races he didnt win rather than those he won.

  • richard storey

    RIP Laurent Fignon a true champion. It was his titanic battle with Lemond 21 years ago that got me into road cycling and I am sure that I am not the only one so inspired. I haven’t stopped since and I think sport needs such heroes to capture our imaginations. I wish they could have shared the prize that year as they both deserved to win. Also I have fond memories of the stage win at Le Grand Ballon in 92(?)