HINAULT LANDS THE WIN HE WANTED
Bernard Hinault became the undisputed hero of France when he broke an 18 year spell in which no Frenchman had won the world professional road race championship on Sunday, 31st August. And he did it in France. The previous win by a Frenchman came when Jean Stablinski beat Ireland's Seamus Elliot at Salo, Italy, in 1962.
Never mind the Giro, the Tour de France or any other classic in 1980, this was the win Hinault wanted. A wet course met the 107 starters for this day-long grind over 20 laps of the slaughter circuit of 13.4 km, totalling 268 kms.
The British team had a police escort to bring them in the 11 miles from their hotel and Jim Hendry says that because of the crowds they would never have got through to reach the start in time, but for the police help. Big Phil Edwards was not at all happy. Hills are not his forte. They certainly do not suit him. And he said before the start: "Only ten will finish. Such a course should not be allowed."
But Gerrie Knetemann, world champion 1978, Dutchman in the T.I.-Raleigh team, said as he tapped his chest: "I am strong."
Bernard Hinault was on his home ground after the disappointment of having to quit the Tour de France wearing the yellow jersey after the twelth stage, when he had been hoping to land the second half of the coveted double, win both the Giro and the Tour de France in the same year.
Hinault's right knee let him down in July, yet ahead of him now was a severe, long and gruelling test he again wanted to win.
The solid-looking Frenchman who has won the Tour de France twice but has never won the world championship, quickly flexed his muscles. On the first climb of the Domancy he set up an attack, obviously as a try-out but also, it proved, to show he meant business.
Belgium's Johan De Muynck was the only one able to go with Hinault and he ran out of road on one of the difficult bends on the descent. He got back with Hinault and the two were leaders at the end of the opening lap by 34 seconds. On the radio Eddie Merckx tipped Muynck as a good climber.
Britain's Sid Barras and champion Keith Lambert were in the peloton. Phil Bayton and Jack Kershaw were in the next group at 59 seconds. Edwards was already trailing, and Sweden's Ove Sulkakoski, who rides for the Elswick/Falcon team, packed at the end of the first lap. On the way to the hill on the second lap Hinault and De Muynck eased up to be caught. The second lap was two minutes slower than the first becaue the Hinault attack had ended.
Denmark's Kim Anderson and Switzerland's Ueli Sutter broke away on the third lap and were soon joined by Mariano Martinez of France. The trio got together and provided the interest until the break broke up and was absorbed nine laps later, after at one time having a 5 minute 18 seconds lead.
Early in this break Britain's Hayton and Lambert were in contention in the peloton and Phil Bayton chased and got on. In lap three Britain's dominant Robert Millar was forced to make a bike change through chain trouble and had to chase for some time to get back on.
Sutter dropped back at eight laps gone. In the peloton Ireland's Sean Kelly's green jersey was always near the head, but on lap 10 Kelly was in company with three G.B. jerseys at the tail of the peloton. Next lap Kelly, Hayton and Lambert were leading a group with ten seconds between them and the peleton.
Robert Millar had maintained his place with the peleton. Kelly soon retired and said: "It was hopeless. I could have gone on and finished about 20 minutes down."
Knetemann and also Italy's young star Saronni also packed. Keith Lambert got back to the second group, now only 24 seconds down on the leading group of 32 riders.
But the dominator with fire in his legs and head was Hinault who chose his own time and tactics. Pollentier, the famous Belgian who was concerned in the Tour de France doping incidents a couple of years ago, led the vital attack up the Domancy on lap 13. Hinault followed him, riding on the tops and looking extremely comfortable. Italy's Gian Baronchelli made it over the top with the respected Van Der Velde of Holland as also did eventually Italy's Battaglin. It was now a 5-strong leading group with two Italians there.
A group of 11 chased, including Millar. Italy's Paniza got up to the leaders to make it six in the lead, three of which were Italians.
Next time on Domancy Millar amazingly got up to the leaders at a time when two Italians dropped back, leaving the strong looking Baronchelli the only Italian with the Hinault squad.
All British thoughts were with Millar. Last year in the amateur championship the young Glasgow rider so closely missed the bronze medal after pulling a foot out of a toe-clip on the last climb.
Pollentier went on the next climb of Domancy. Four leaders now, including Millar. A bronze seemed possible for Millar if he could stay there. Next climb a small gap opened leaving Millar gamely struggling but he manfully chased over the top of the climb and got on again on the descent.
Foreign journalists were asking "Who is Millar, how old is he, how long has he been pro?" In the bunch Millar said after finishing the race that Hinault had been asking questions too, and suggested he should work. But there was no question of others working. Hinault was setting the pace, determined to go on and win.
Millar went to his pocket for food. Would this bring recovery for him? At the next lap end, six riders were at 1.43 behind the three leaders. Kuiper, world champion in 1975 was leading three others at 2.41. Eighteen riders were left in the race. Eighty-nine had packed.
A spectator ran up the hill looking as if he might give Hinault a helping push. The French ace pushed him away. He was going to win without question. At the back a gap opened again in front of Millar and try as he did this time he could not get back. At the end of the lap he was trailing at 1.39. Really now the question was, could the game Scot hold on?
Baronchelli was trailing Hinault all the way. Only once on the descent did the Italian go to the front, but Hinault himself soon went back to the front. After that Hinault chose a tricky piece of road on the last lap, shot in an attack and he was away from Baronchelli and on his way to win by 61 seconds.
While the huge French crowd jubilantly and rightfully acclaimed Hinault as their world champion, a group of seven had caught and passed Britain's hero, Robert Millar, out of which Spain's Juan Fernandez won the sprint for third place and the bronze medal. Gio Battaglin also caught Millar to take 10th place, with Millar 11th.
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