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Greatest rivalries of the Tour de France

Cyclist magazine
11 Jul 2016

We look at some of the greatest rivalries that pro cycling has known, and discover that the belligerents aren't always on opposing teams.

Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi

In the years after the War, Gino Bartali was the Italian hero, beloved of the rural south. Coppi was the urbane newcomer from the industrial north. Despite being teammates, their rivalry was ignited when the upstart Coppi won the 1940 Giro ahead of his team leader. Despite their differences, it was the ageing Bartali who helped Coppi win his first Tour de France in 1949.

Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor

Despite beating Raymond Poulidor repeatedly at the Tour, Jacques Anquetil was never as popular with the French public – a fact that fuelled their rivalry. It came to a head on Puy de Dôme in the 1964 Tour, when they matched each other stroke for stroke to the point where Anquetil collapsed over the line. Poulidor won the stage but, as ever, it was Anquetil who took yellow in Paris.

Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond

The deal was simple. The young Greg LeMond would help his French team leader Bernard Hinault to win his fifth Tour in 1985, and then Hinault would work for LeMond the following year. In 1986, however, Hinault appeared to attack his teammate. Hinault pleaded innocence, but LeMond was obliged to treat Hinault as a rival instead of a helper on his way to a first Tour win.

Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstrong

German powerhouse Jan Ullrich, who won the Tour aged just 23 in 1997, finished on the podium seven times but could never quite get the better of Lance Armstrong once the larger-than-life American started winning. Their rivalry was summed up when Armstrong turned to stare at Ullrich on Alpe d’Huez in 2001, before leaving him in the dust to take the stage victory. 

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