Fignon blasted LeMond for tracking him instead of attacking. But LeMond had little choice. His ADR team had already lost four of its nine riders to injury or exhaustion, so he was without support or protection. If Fignon or Delgado took off on a breakaway, riders from other teams might go after them—to keep them from extending their lead—but LeMond couldn't depend on that. "What does Fignon expect?" LeMond said. "The truth is, he's as scared of me as he is of Delgado."
By this point, Delgado had climbed back brilliantly, recouping five minutes and his composure. He had the best team, Reynolds of Spain, a complete squad of nine climbers and a reputation for demolishing rivals in the mountains. He gave LeMond a 60% chance of winning and himself 40%. And Fignon?
"Make that LeMond 60, me 40 and Fignon 25," he said.
However you add it up, the trio's most daunting opponents were Col de l'Izoard and L'Alpe d'Huez, the impossibly steep alpine peaks they had to scale on July 18 and 19. Buoyed by banners proclaiming HUP, HUP HOLLAND, ARRIBA COLOMBIA and, inexplicably, I KNOW PINK, BUT WHAT is FLOYD?, the leaders ground up Izoard in a six-man pack. One by one, the riders attacked LeMond, trying to make him crack. He fought off each skirmisher. When Delgado made a break near the Izoard's summit, LeMond not only drafted him to the top but also led the descent, swooping down to Briancon at 60 mph. Delgado fought back, but Fignon struggled and lost 13 seconds. "The guy I was really worried about was Delgado," said LeMond, "and I never let him get away."
The road to L'Alpe d'Huez wriggles up 21 switchbacks, climbing to 5,725 feet above sea level. Delgado, who was 2:38 off the pace in third place, needed to thump LeMond and Fignon decisively, but he seemed unable or unwilling to challenge. With four kilometers to go in the 161.5-km stage, Fignon saw LeMond's shoulders begin to rock, and he unleashed a brutal assault. Delgado bolted and LeMond faded; for a moment he appeared to be drifting backward. By the time LeMond finished the stage, he had lost 1:19 and the yellow jersey. Fignon was the leader again, by 26 seconds.
In the next afternoon's 91.5-km stretch Fignon pulled another daring break on the Côte de St. Nizier de Moucherotte. He rode the final 24 kilometers alone against the clock and the wind, building his overall lead to a seemingly comfortable 50 seconds. The last days of the Tour were filled with obligatory attacks and counterattacks. LeMond outsprinted Fignon at last Friday's finish, but gained no time. Nor did he make any inroads in the 118-km stage on Saturday. So he came into Sunday's final time trial still trailing by 50 seconds after more than 87 hours and 3,200 kms (2,000 miles) of racing.
No one doubted that LeMond could win the so-called "race of truth" from Versailles to the Tuileries; he has become a master of time trials. But few thought he could make up enough time to win. Paul Koechli, LeMond's coach during his '86 victory, pronounced his eulogy the night before the final stage: "It's possible for Greg to grab a second a kilometer, but two? Unthinkable."
LeMond was more optimistic. "It's going to be difficult to win," he said on Sunday morning, "but I think it's still possible."
"De l'audace, LeMond, de l'audace!" yelled the Parisian rabble, and boldly, boldly, he shot down the same path that Louis XVI took in 1789. "I never stopped believing that I could do it," said LeMond.
Unlike Louis, he kept his head.