Bernard Hinault recrowned himself king of the cycling world today, and promised to make it a dynasty.
After struggling against a knee injury for the last two years, the Frenchman today won the Tour de France -- the world's preeminent bicycle race -- for a record-tying fifth time. He gave much of the credit for his victory to his La Vie Claire teammate, U.S. racer Greg Lemond, and promised to coach Lemond to victory in next year's tour.
Hinault's cumulative time over the 23 days of racing was 113 hours 24 minutes 23 seconds. Lemond finished second, only 1 minute 42 seconds behind, and well ahead of Ireland's Stephen Roche, in third place at 4:29 back.
Hinault was victorious in the 1978, 1979, 1981 and 1982 Tours. Countryman Jacques Anquetil won five races in the 1950s and 1960s, and Belgium's Eddy Merckx accomplished the feat in the 1970s. No rider has won the event six times.
Belgium's Rudy Matthijs, winner of the first and second legs of the Tour, took the 22nd and final leg, which ended in a massive sprint on Paris' elegant Champs Elysees after six turns around the heart of the French capital. Ireland's Sean Kelly placed second in the final leg and France's Francis Castaing third.
Having raced 2,500 grueling miles, which included agonizing climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees mountains, the 144-man field sprinted through the streets of Paris to the finish. Thousands of Parisians pressed against police barriers to cheer cyclists in their final laps.
Hinault's victory was never in serious doubt after he took the overall lead on the ninth day. When, in the final week, Hinault faltered briefly due to illness, Lemond helped to pace him through two difficult mountain sections of the race.
Speaking on French television after the finish, Hinault said he had won "with my head and with my team . . . which was extraordinary, with Greg's presence." Hinault insisted he would not try for a sixth victory on the tour, but "next year, if I'm there, I'll only be working to push one of my teammates to the win. If all goes well, it will be Greg."
Hinault was enthusiastic about the growing internationalization of the race, which historically has been dominated by Europeans. Six of this year's top 10 finishers were non-Europeans.
Appearing with Hinault on television, Lemond said he hoped his success would increase U.S. interest in cycle racing. Having trained and raced in Europe for the last five years, Lemond is better known here than in the United States, and seems well-liked by French fans.
Lemond's show of loyalty to Hinault during the race has heightened his popularity. And a television commentator, interviewing him after the race, congratulated Lemond both on his performance and "because you have the graciousness to speak French well."
The women's Tour de France, being run for the second year, was won by Italian Maria Canins, ahead of two Frenchwomen, Jeannie Longo and Cecile Odin. The top U.S. cyclist, Janelle Parks, finished seventh overall.
Parks led the U.S. "B" team to third place in the team standings, behind victors Italy and the France "A" team. Other top U.S. women included Carol Rogers-Dunning in 18th place; Betsy King, 20th; Deborah Shumway, 32nd, and Patty Peoples of Gaithersburg, Md., 35th.
Last year, Peoples finished 16th. "When I go back home, people will say, 'Hey, you were 16th last year; what happened to you this year?' " she said.
"This year was much harder," she answered her own question, smiling through her exhaustion. "The competition was double what it was last year, both in quantity and in quality."
In an early stage of the race, Peoples was forced to switch bicycles in midrace and lost contact with the pack. "I had to do a 90-kilometer time trial, and went from 23rd (place) to 64th in one day," she said. "Then there were three days when I was really sick . . . with a stomach virus."
For Peoples, it is clear that the major highlight of the Tour de France is, well, the Tour de France. "A lot of people at home don't quite understand," she said, "but the tour is bike racing."