UNSUPPORTED BROWSER
More Sports

Unfriendly relations: America vs. Europe in the Tour de France

Since the first American cyclist made his way to the European pro circuit in the mid-'70s, enough gaffes, misunderstandings and flashpoints have taken place to keep a U.N. peacekeeping force busy -- from Greg LeMond's spending the Tour de France rest day playing golf, to the conversion of La Taverne Zimmer, the Montmartre bar in which the Tour was hatched at the turn of the century, into a TGI Friday's. Among the lowlights:

1981

Sizing up the first American ever to ride the Tour de France, legendary French racing director Cyrille Guimard calls Jonathan Boyer un marginal, or weirdo -- a reference to Boyer being, among other things, a Seventh-Day Adventist, a vegetarian, and a believer in acupuncture.

1984

After the World Championship road race in Barcelona, Greg LeMond publicly gripes that during the race Italy's Moreno Argentin had offered to help him win for $10,000.

1985

Andy Hampsten of the U.S., riding the Tour of Italy for the American 7-Eleven team, is mocked by foreign rivals for wearing a one-piece suit. He goes on to win a stage of the race in his first pro ride.

1986

France's Bernard Hinault reneges on his pledge to help LeMond become the first American to win the Tour, even though LeMond had helped an injured Hinault win it the year before. LeMond winds up victorious anyway, but not before fellow American Bob Roll, boarding a helicopter to evacuate a mountaintop stage finish, tells LeMond, "You're going to massacre these Philistines ... all the Frenchies were pissed that you dropped [Hinault's] sorry ass" -- whereupon Roll realizes that Hinault, sitting right beside LeMond, has heard every word.

1988

Belgium's Eddy Planckaert, meeting Joe Parkin of the U.S. for the first time, asks him, "What kind of guns do you have?" Upon learning that Parkin doesn't pack heat, Planckaert rides off disappointedly.

1989

Facing a 50-second deficit before the final time trial into Paris, LeMond uses a futuristic bike wheel and an aerodynamic helmet to win the Tour by eight seconds over France's bareheaded Laurent Fignon. The host country hasn't supplied a winner of its gemstone sporting event since.

1990

After Italy's Claudio Chiappucci defies the sport's custom and breaks away while LeMond is disabled with a flat, LeMond refers to Chiappucci as "Claudio Cappuccino, or whatever his name is."

1993

After becoming road racing World Champion in Oslo at age 21, Lance Armstrong of the U.S. refuses an audience with Norway's King Harald unless he can bring along his mother, Linda.

1997

Cofidis racing director Alain Bondue visits Armstrong in Indianapolis, where he's undergoing chemotherapy, and says that the French team wants out of its contract with him. "You have to understand this is a cultural thing," he tells Armstrong's agent, Bill Stapleton. "People in France don't understand how someone can get paid when they're not working."

1999

Armstrong wins his first Tour title in the same year that, for the first time since 1926, no Frenchman wins a single stage.

2004As Armstrong wins his sixth straight Tour, an American fan along the Champs-Elysees waves a sign that reads FRANCE: U.S. OWNED AND OCCUPIED SINCE 1999.

2005

The day after Armstrong's record seventh straight -- and most recent -- Tour win, the French sports daily L'Equipe writes: "Never to such an extent, probably, has an athlete's retirement been so welcomed."

2005

Under the headline THE ARMSTRONG LIE, L'Equipe reports that testing of six separate samples drawn from Armstrong during his 1999 Tour victory, saved for research purposes and subjected to a newly developed test, show evidence of the banned blood booster EPO. Armstrong charges on Larry King Live that anti-American elements within or with access to France's national drug-testing lab at Chatenay-Malabry manipulated his urine.

2006

Shortly before flying to France for the end of the Tour, a retired Armstrong jokes that the French national soccer team had tested positive -- "for being a-------." Upon his arrival Armstrong is greeted by a headline in the national daily France-Soir: "Welcome to France, A------!"

2008

Armstrong opens a bike shop in Austin called Mellow Johnny's, a fractured French rendering of the phrase for the Tour yellow leader's jersey, le maillot jaune.

2009

Armstrong appears on the cover of Outside magazine, alongside a billing that reads "On his critics: 'Pardon my French, but !@#$ them.'"

2009

Doorstepped by a French out-of-competition drug tester following a training ride, Armstrong keeps his visitor waiting 20 minutes so he can take a shower. When it becomes clear that this may jeopardize Armstrong's ability to ride the Tour de France, his team director, Johan Bruyneel, tells the Spanish sports daily Marca, "It's obvious that they want Lance's head at any price."

SI.com

Drag this icon to your bookmark bar.
Then delete your old SI.com bookmark.

SI.com

Click the share icon to bookmark us.