Tuesday, August 31, 2010

adieu professor

French cycling legend, Laurent Fignon, the true professor of the peloton, has passed away.

My memories of Fignon are vague, network coverage of le tour in the early 80s. I remember cheering against him, in favor of Greg LeMond. It was nothing personal--I didn't dislike Fignon, but as an American, you had to love LeMond. And it was this great rivalry with Fignon that made LeMond an even more legendary figure.

But I needn't lecture you about cycling history. The thing I wanted to say about Fignon is that he always stood out in my mind as one of the great nerds in the sporting world. I actually don't know if he's a nerd, but he was a sports figure who wore glasses. And not James Worthy-style sports glasses, but straight-up metal frame librarian glasses. You obviously can't get away with wearing these spectacles in contact sports, but they are actually kinda impractical for cycling, since they don't block the wind or sun very well. (You might see these in cross-country running, but we already knew those guys are nerds.) As a somewhat nerdy and also somewhat athletic kid, I think Fignon made a pretty big impression on me, though I don't think I realized it until now. Here was someone at the top of their sport, possibly the most difficult athletic contest in the world, and they seem kinda dorky (the glasses are significant, but the ponytail seals the deal). Nerds can get rad, especially as cyclists.

Incidentally, I think he may have been the archetype for the cricket bat-toting nihilist in "The Big Lebowski" (not the ferret handler or Flea):

Farewell professor.


oishikatta said...

In reality, I think Fignon modeled his likeness after Robert Prescott character Kent in the 1985 classic Real Genius. And if you study history, Real Genius is also where the pro peloton got the idea for race radios, though the original dental appliance mounted transceiver design was ultimately scapped for earbud style receivers once the UCI ban was lifted. in case you'd forgotten: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sf-5RaFnh2U

co2cycle said...

that was the Ed Begley Jr. character, right? i think you may be on to something. besides, lots of euro styles are about 10-15 years behind american styles. i mean, vladimir karpets just cut his mullet this year--and just when they're coming back into style. unless of course euro style is 3 years ahead of american styles.