© Presse Sports
Far behind riders of the stature of Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Mark Cavendish, in the history of the Tour de France there have been almost three hundred men who only got a fleeting taste of glory. As the countdown to the start of the race on 7 July continues, letour.fr is retracing the steps of 10 champions who clinched a single stage win. In 1989, a good five years after a 12-day stint in yellow, Vincent Barteau came back with a bang to win the stage to Marseille on the bicentennial of the storming of the Bastille.
The Tour de France and Marseille had finally buried the hatchet. It had been 18 years since the peloton last barrelled into the Old Port, arriving well ahead of schedule and prompting a feud with mayor Gaston Deferre. However, the Grande Boucle chose Marcel Pagnol’s city for the stage of 14 July that marked the bicentennial of the French Revolution. At this point in the race (stage 13), the big battle of the year was already in full swing, with Laurent Fignon and Greg LeMond alternating in the yellow jersey and trading blows in time trials and the mountains. The course between Montpellier and Marseille was far from ideal for an ambush, but Fignon blew the peloton apart together with third-placed Charly Mottet in a bid to expand his meagre seven-second lead. Riding alone at the front for more than 40 kilometres, the duo sowed panic in what remained of the peloton and put LeMond and Delgado against the ropes. Their attempt finally came to an end with 26 kilometres to go and, roughly 10 kilometres later, Vincent Barteau followed an acceleration by Jean-Claude Colotti on the Côte de Saint-Antoine.
Fignon and his teammate Barteau had run a two-man show in the 1984 Tour, spending a combined 19 days in yellow. The Norman had since had a stint riding for LeMond, who gave him a chance at a time when many had written him off as a failed promise. Barteau, who had returned to the side of his former captain at Système U, was back with a vengeance, riding solo for 14 kilometres under the blazing sun. The “big engine” was back, getting a hero’s welcome at the Old Port and crossing the finish line 45″ ahead of Colotti and 1′16″ ahead of Martial Gayant, who completed a French 1-2-3 fit for the occasion. The brand-new director of the Tour de France, Jean-Marie Leblanc, hailed Barteau’s performance in Provence on this festive day in his daily piece in L’Équipe. “Ignore how welcome, heart-warming and patriotic this win was and focus on its deepest meaning. It simply proves that Vincent Barteau is back in the game, even though many of us thought it was no longer possible.”