November 29, 2021

Cycling. “I couldn’t give more to Armstrong than to Indurain”: in the retro of

It is inevitably a time that the under 20s cannot know, since we are talking about the past melting pot of the current Alder Loops. Here, in Châteaulin, in this semi-urban island, nicely nestled between Brest and Quimper, the history of cycling once took hold. She still has it, like those relics (like this bike house, instead of an old station …), the most famous of which, open-air, still concerns the bleachers on the Port-Launay road. The grandiose theater of the famous Circuit de l’Aulne, a star-studded track that all the greats have known.

Alain Le Gouill is a wise guarantor of this tradition. The current organizer of the Loops agrees a form of nostalgia of this prosperous period when the coming of a star was bought at a good price, without there being anything to complain about. But this purebred Châteaulinois has never done a better job (we will see that it is not enough to say it), and above all seeks to perpetuate son ordeal, between past games but remained with posterity, and a current calendar where owning a date is a jealous sesame.

Chiappucci, Bugno…

Between 1986 and 1998, Alain Le Gouill was the general commissioner of the Circuit de l’Aulne, a criterium which then took place the day after the Worlds. A slightly complex title for a most simplistic mission: to bring together the biggest stars of the little queen on the roads of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. We were leaving for a week on the Tour de France with another couple, to negotiate the main contracts of the main stars, engages the one who, through the Covid and the postponement of the Buckles, made the last round of the Coupe de France overlap with … his birthday, this Sunday, October 17. Some stars came from year to year, but there were always revelations. And so a wallet to take out.

Lance Armstrong, just crowned with his title of world champion, had come to Châteaulin. © DR

His firsts negotiations, Alain le Gouill led them with sacred customers, in the cycling sense of the term. Gianni Bugno, Claudio Chiappucci… These were his first contacts. “There was the rider himself, but also the sports director. I particularly sympathized with (Gianluigi) Stanga, the DS of Bugno (2nd in the Circuit de l’Aulne in 1991). Thanks to the fame of the event, it was relatively straightforward. I never had to overbid. “

Indurain, easy to convince

Not even in front of a Miguel Indurain that the aura of future five-time Tour de France winner would have almost allowed to play with his own celebrity. In other words, to raise the sauce and the prices. But no, cut Alain Le Gouill, who crossed paths with “the King” again, with ease, much later, on the roads of the Tour. The negotiations were done with his mentor, Francis Lafargue. I remember a stage finish in Quimper (in 1991). Francis had told me: the ordeal (The Alder Circuit) is so important that he will come. The runner, I couldn’t even see him.

photo lance armstrong wins the worlds in oslo in 1993. a few hours later, he will be at the start of the alder circuit.  © afp

Lance Armstrong won the World Championships in Oslo in 1993. A few hours later, he will be at the start of the Alder Circuit. © AFP

There is one, on the other hand, that the Châteaulinois saw arriving from afar. In 1993, Alain Le Gouill, helped by a Norwegian matchmaker ( who was none other than the husband of the niece of a member of our delegation) wisely takes its ease in a living room of the town hall of Oslo. The new world champion is brought to him on a plate, very fresh, for barely five minutes. His name: Lance Armstrong, titan jaw, ego already in place. “I heard him say: I’m not Américain, I’m Texan » (I’m not American, I’m Texan ). I explain to him that the world champion usually comes to race in France. He asks me if he has the right to something. For the negotiation, we saw each other at his hotel an hour later… ”

“With Armstrong, we had to get closer”

A sufficient period of time to allow the businessman that we know to germinate. He asked in dollars what we could give him in francs. We had to get closer. I told him that I couldn’t decently give him more than what we gave to Miguel Indurain. That’s where he said: OK, but Frankie Andreu (Armstrong’s former teammate at Motorola, Cofidis and US Postal) come with me.

The next day, Châteaulin will face a youngster of barely 22 years old, with the physique of Robocop, wrapped in rainbow edging. In his work entitled “Châteaulin, capital of cycling”, Jean-Paul Ollivier also relates the fact that Armstrong, taken aback, because disembarked the very morning of the event in Brest, had taken the start of the Circuit de l’Aulne with the protocol jersey. In other words, without a pocket, and therefore without refueling possible. In the good franquette! Such was the Circuit de l’Aulne. A trail to the stars accessible to ordinary people … That the over 20s have had the chance to know.