Today’s stage is a good comparison with Stage 16 of the 1983 edition. Both were hilly stages but, the 2016 stage is longer and comes after a mountain stage, whereas the 1983 stage was preceded by a mountain time trial, which was the defining moment of the 1983 Tour. That defining moment belonged to one of the sports great riders, Laurent Fignon.
The 1983 stage finished in Saint Etienne and was won by Michel Laurent. St. Étienne was the capital of the French bicycle industry. The bicycle wheel manufacturer Mavic is based in the city and frame manufacturers Motobécane and Vitus are also based here. Named after Saint Stephen, the city first appears in the historical record in the Middle Ages as Saint-Étienne de Furan (after the River Furan, a tributary of the Loire). In the 13th century it was a small borough around the church dedicated to Saint Etienne.
Laurent Patrick Fignon, August 1960 – 31 August 2010. was a French professional racer who rode for; 1982–1985 Renault-Elf, 1986–1989 System U, 1990–1991 Castorama and 1992–1993 Gatorade. His first sport was football and he got as far as playing for his département or area. Friends encouraged him into cycling and he rode his first official race in 1976, which he won. Fignon’s parents did not want him to race, and he raced without them knowing. He won four more races in his first year, but only one in his second year. In this third year, he won 18 out of 36 races. Fignon’s parents allowed him to race, but still thought that he should study.
In 1981, Fignon rode the Tour of Corsica which allows amateur cyclists to ride along with professional riders. Fignon rode an early stage attempting to hold the wheel of Bernard Hinault, the top professional cyclist, and succeeded for much of the race. Cyrille Guimard observed the young cyclist a few days later at the national 100 km time trial team. In May 1981 he offered him a place on his Renault-Elf-Gitane professional team to begin the following year. Fignon joined the team in 1982, along with longtime friend and fellow junior rider Pascal Jules.
Fignon was 21 years of age.
When Hinault, winner of four of five previous Tours, announced that he would not start due to injury, the Renault team was without team captain. Fignon was added to the 1983 Tour de France selection and the team decided to go for stage wins. After stage nine, the first mountain stage, Fignon was in second place, behind Pascal Simon and he was allowed to be team leader. In the eleventh stage, Simon crashed and broke his shoulder blade. Simon continued, and only lost little time the next stages. In the fifteenth stage, a mountain time trial, Fignon was able to win back so much time that he was within one minute of Simon. In the seventeenth stage, Simon had to give up, and Fignon became the new leader. Fignon later said that he was lucky to have won the 1983 Tour: if Hinault would have been present, Fignon would have helped Hinault, as Hinault was the team leader.
At 22 years old, Fignon was the youngest man to win the Tour since 1933.