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Tribeca FF 2014 Films, On Your Radar: Slaying The Badger
by Karen Pecota

ESPN was quick to see the value for a silver screen narrative of the 1986 Tour de France event  featuring cyclists Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault is “Le Blaireau,” the Badger. Noted by some as the greatest race in the Tour's history. The film is taken from the book by Richard Moore, Slaying the Badger: Greg LeMond, Bernhard Hinault, and the Greatest Tour de France.

One needs to know nothing about the sport of cycling to find documentary director John Dower's film refreshing, thrilling and heartbreaking. It's a remarkable story about cyclists competing with pure human strength, intellect and shear determination for a win. The last Tour before illegal doping entered the sport.

Dower tells of an exhilarating battle of strength and wit between two cycling rivals that made the 1986 Tour de France historical. Dower notes, "The Badger (Hinault) was as tough as old boots and an old warrior of the French peloton (their main cyclist). Revered as he was feared for his ferocious attacks."  He adds, "Greg LeMond enters the scene as the boyish and friendly young American making a serious threat to the Badger—and France’s entire cycling heritage. Known as 'L’Américain', LeMond is the naïve Tour newcomer riding strong and unafraid." Dower reveals, "LeMond was a novelty, the first American to break into the sport. He also happened to be brilliant, perhaps the most naturally gifted rider the sport has ever seen."

LeMond and his wife reminisce about the 1986 Tour with mixed emotions. Hinault was LeMond's mentor, teammate, and friend but mostly a vicious rival. Hinault promised to help LeMond win his first victory in return for helping his win in the previous year. Hinault was already a five-time Tours de France champion. It became clear that he wanted to end his long cycling career by being the first man to win the Tour six times. The Badger gets greedy and turns on LeMond—his teammate.

The stakes were high in the 1986 Tour de France.  A win for LeMond would bring America its first Tour de France. LeMond and Badger riding for the same team sees the 'rubber meets the road' when the arch rivals changed the team strategy into every man for himself. It was the help of LeMond's American teammate Andy Hampsten, which pushed LeMond to ride like a champion. Leaning into the strategy of teamwork was the reason LeMond was the first American to win the Tour de France.

Richard Moore states, "Slaying the Badger is an incomparably detailed and highly revealing tale of cycling’s most extraordinary rivalry."