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):