1989 Tour de France stage six: Pelier's long break

Joel Pelier is emotional after winning stage six into Futuroscope


Friday July 7, 1989

Rennes-Futuroscope, 259km

The first act over, it was time for the side-shows on the longest stage of the Tour. With the high Pyrenees just two days away, the overall leaders declared a truce and Greg LeMond spent a relatively peaceful day in the yellow jersey. Into the limelight raced Joel Pelier with a magnificent 150-kilometre lone break to victory. It was the third-longest lone breakaway in the history of the Tour and Pelier’s first Tour stage win.

Pelier, 27, the only Frenchman in the Spanish BH team, escaped just before the first feed at La Poueze (93km). His lead grew to 17 minutes in 70 kilometres, making him race leader on the road after starting the day 62nd overall at 9-28.

With 170 kilometres covered the peloton decided that Pelier had better be brought to heel and started to chase, driven by the ADR team guarding LeMond’s jersey, and by Panasonic seeking to get their sprinters Vanderaerden and Van Poppel well placed.

Then a crash dealt French hopes a nasty blow. Brought down in the main field were mountains leader Thierry Claveyrolat (RMO), third man overall Thierry Marie (Super-U), and Z-Peugeot hope Ronan Pensec.

Marie rejoined the field, but Pensec and Claveyrolat never did. Poor Claveyrolat, deserted by his RMO team who didn’t bother to wait for him, hung on to the four Z-Peugeot men sent back to aid Pensec.

It turned out a black day for Z-Peugeot. Their five men, and Claveyrolat crossed the rain-soaked finishing line more than 11 minutes after Pelier. Pensec, Z-Peugeot’s third best placed rider overall, dropped from 44th to 139th at 17-27.

So nightmares for Claveyrolat and Pensec while Pelier clung to his dream, labouring in the cross-winds which began to hinder in the last 40 kilometres. Fighting for survival he heaved a big gear through the rain which began to fall as the weird glass and steel towers of the Futuroscope Theme Park emerged on the plain before him.

All the while the pack drew closer as individual attacks rocketed off the front.

With 10 kilometres to go, Pelier’s lead was down to 5-30, with two kilometres to go, it was 3-29. But nothing could stop the determined Pelier, who drove on to cross the line 1-36 ahead of the pack, and collapse into the arms of helpers.

This win is so special to me because today is the first time that my mother and father have seen me in the Tour de France,’ said Pelier, tears streaming down his face.

And his proud parents would compare this great day for the family with the anxiety of that day in the 1986 Tour when their son had collapsed at the summit finish on the Col du Granon, and had to be flown to hospital by helicopter.

For Pelier, this triumph was a powerful rebuke to Laurent Fignon and his Super-U team which he quit last year after disagreement with his bosses. Everyone wrote him off saying he would be forgotten, the lone Frenchman in the Spanish BH team.

Late attackers in pursuit of Pelier were Patrick Tolhoek (Superconfex) who was swallowed by the field where LeMond was prominent near the front. A sudden burst by TVM’s Eddy Schurer in the last kilometre gave the Dutchman second place at 1-34, two seconds ahead of the pack led by Eric Vanderaerden (Panasonic). 182 men all finished in the same time. LeMond, 32nd, trailed Fignon (31st) across the line and a pair would note that a certain Sean Kelly  moved up two places overall, from 20th to 18th.

He had obviously recovered from the bout of sickness in the time trial. For there is more to a Tour de France than winning stages, especially when none of the finishes carry time bonuses of this year.

But they can be won at the Catch sprints which is where Kelly snatched time back by winning the second Catch (58km), and taking second at the third which lifted him 10 seconds closer to LeMond and only one point behind points leader Lilholt in the contest for the green jersey.


1. Joel Pelier (Fra) BH 6-57-45

2. Eddy Schurer (Ned) TVM at 1-34

3. Eric Vanderaerden (Bel) Panasonic at 1-36

4. Adrie Van Der Poel (Ned) Domex

5. Rudy Dhaenens (Bel) PDM both st


1. Greg LeMond (USA) ADR 25-57-38

2. Laurent Fignon (Fra) Super-U at 5sec

3. Thierry Marie (Fra) Super-U at 20sec

4. Erik Breukink (Ned) Panasonic at 1-51

5. Sean Yates (GB) 7-Eleven at 2-18

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Keith Bingham joined the Cycling Weekly team in the summer of 1971, and retired in 2011. During his time, he covered numerous Tours de France, Milk Races and everything in-between. He was well known for his long-running 'Bikewatch' column, and played a pivotal role in fighting for the future of once at-threat cycling venues such as Hog Hill and Herne Hill Velodrome.