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|General manager||Bernard Tapie|
|Team name history|
|La Vie Claire-Terraillon
La Vie Claire-Radar
Toshiba-La Vie Claire
The La Vie Claire team was created in 1984 by Bernard Tapie and directed by Paul Köchli. The team included five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault, and three-time winner, Greg LeMond, as well as Andrew Hampsten and the Canadian Steve Bauer. With Hinault winning the Tour in 1985, and LeMond winning in 1986, plus winning the team trophy both years, La Vie Claire cemented their place in cycling team history. The team formed after Bernard Hinault had a dispute with his former directeur sportif Cyrille Guimard of Renault-Elf-Gitane with whom Hinault had won four editions of the Tour de France. After Hinault's teammate Laurent Fignon won the 1983 Tour de France while Hinault was injured, Fignon became the designated leader of the team. Hinault formed the La Vie Claire team with Tapie and Koechli and steadily built up his form. During the 1984 Tour de France, the Renault-Elf-Gitane dominated the race with 8 stage wins including the Team time trial as well as having the yellow jersey from the 5th stage onward with Vincent Barteau and Laurent Fignon. Fignon won the Tour with over ten minutes on Hinault. In addition with World Champion Greg LeMond the Renault team also finished third overall in that Tour and LeMond won the Young rider's jersey. After this dominance by the Renault-Elf-Gitane team, Tapie and Hinault approached Greg LeMond after the 1984 Tour with a one-million dollar contract offer - the first in cycling history - to leave Renault-Elf-Gitane and join Hinault at La Vie Claire. LeMond accepted, and forever changed the salary structure in bicycle racing. With Hinault and LeMond the team won the 1985 and the 1986 Tour de France. At the end of 1986, Hinault retired and in spring 1987 LeMond was injured in a hunting accident. Hampsten who had finished fourth in the 1986 Tour de France and best Young rider left the team at the end of 1987. Jean-François Bernard was seen by some as a successor to Hinault in stage races and became the leader of the team. Bernard wore the maillot jaune and finished the 1987 Tour de France third overall and wore the maglia rosa in the 1988 Giro d'Italia but then never regained the form to perform in the grand tours for the team. The team itself was undergoing further changes - LeMond and Bauer left the team at the end of 1987 and Koechli and Tapie stopped directing the team in 1988 and 1989. During the latter years of the team, Laurent Jalabert and Tony Rominger were team leaders and earned success for the team.
The La Vie Claire colors (red, yellow, blue and gray) were based on the artwork of Piet Mondrian, giving them a unique appearance in the peloton during the 80s Tours de France. The La Vie Claire jersey, originally designed by Benetton, went through at least five major revisions between 1984-1988 as the team partnered different sponsors (Radar, Wonder, Toshiba, LOOK (and Red Zinger and Celestial Seasonings when racing on American soil)). The design (sleeves: yellow and grey; chest: pattern of rectangles in different sizes and colors) is considered one of the most memorable jerseys in cycling. In spring 2007, the clothing retailer Urban Outfitters introduced a women's T-shirt design named "Floating Squares" nearly identical to the La Vie Claire jersey with the sponsors' logos removed. From 1987 Toshiba became the main sponsor of the team and from 1988 onwards La Vie Claire was no longer a sponsor. The jersey was redesigned in 1990. The Toshiba team continued until the end of the 1991 season.
Also strongly associated with La Vie Claire was the French company LOOK, which made the first clipless pedals.
La Vie Claire was among the first to use carbon fiber frames in the Tour de France. The team switched in 1986 from their previous supplier, Hinault, to carbon fiber frames and forks by TVT. In 1989 the team rode a carbon-fiber frame/fork manufactured by LOOK and fitted with titanium components. In the same year, the team began to use heart rate monitors in training and racing, a technology that the traditional training culture in cycling at first resisted.
La Vie Claire's victories came at a critical juncture in cycling. According to Greg LeMond "a huge movement" towards doping began in Italy around the early 1990s. Many riders suddenly found themselves out of competition and a large number of riders unwilling to participate in "the doping culture" began to retire. LeMond said in 2001 that: "Every rider on La Vie Claire was clean; that was Paul Keochli's big deal to make sure he had a clean team." He added that his American and Canadian teammates, Andy Hampsten and Steve Bauer, "made it through clean." Whether through coincidence or not, Paul Koechli and Steve Bauer drifted out of the sport, somewhat prematurely, around the same time that EPO began to be widely abused and steroids became outdated. Many[who?] think that it was due to their steadfast refusal to become complicit in the new "EPO culture" which was establishing itself in professional cycling around this time.
In the 1985 Tour, LeMond was far ahead of the pack when the team boss Bernard Tapie and coach Paul Koechli asked him to slow down, saying Hinault, who had won four Tours and was going for his record-tying fifth, was right behind. LeMond kept waiting until he realized he'd been tricked; Hinault was more than three minutes behind. Hinault went on to win that year's tour, and in return, LeMond was assured by Hinault that he would support LeMond the following year. In 1986, Hinault rode an aggressive race, which he insisted was to deter and demoralize their mutual rivals. He claimed his tactics were to wear down LeMond's (and his) opponents and that he knew that LeMond would win because of time losses earlier in the race. However, LeMond saw this as a betrayal and accused Hinault of reneging on his promise. In LeMond's words, "He totally tried screwing me. But I don't blame him." As the 1986 Tour wore on, loyalties among LeMond and Hinault's teammates split along national lines, with the Americans and British supporting LeMond and the French and Belgians backing Hinault. Andy Hampsten said of the 1986 Tour: "It was rotten being on the team... Steve Bauer and I had to chase down Hinault on the stage into St Etienne. That really sucked." The competition, abandoned promises, and high stakes in the LeMond-Hinault controversy makes it one of the most public and bitter rivalries between teammates in cycling history.
(1) Bryan Malessa, "Once Was King: An interview with Greg LeMond" http://www.roble.net/marquis/coaching/lemond98.html
(2) Andy Hampsten: The Interview http://www.pezcyclingnews.com/?pg=fullstory&id=1202
(3) Inside Cycling with John Wilcockson: Hinault takes a big early lead in dramatic '85 Tour [filed Nov. 28, 2005] http://www.velonews.com/news/fea/9206.0.html
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