By Graham Healy
Down through the years, the World Championship Road Race has often ended in controversy. One such occasion was the 1982 race in Goodwood, England.
Amongst those considered favourites to win were Bernard Hinault, Giuseppe Saronni and Sean Kelly. Nobody really fancied the chances of the previous year’s winner, Freddy Maertens. The Belgian had not been able to regain his form of the previous year.
The route was on the Goodwood motor racing circuit, and featured the climb of Kennel Hill with a maximum gradient of 10%. The riders would face 18 laps, totalling 276 kilometres.
Amongst other outside favourites were Phil Anderson, Stephen Roche, Jan Raas and Francesco Moser. Robert Millar was Britain’s best hope, but the circuit was probably not hard enough for the Glaswegian. Two American riders also felt that they were in with a shout of taking the win – Jonathan Boyer and Greg LeMond. The two had previously been team mates on the Renault team.
Boyer, now having moved to Kelly’s SEM team, had finished in 5th place in the Worlds two years previously and was also the first American to take part in the Tour de France. LeMond, meanwhile, was being tipped as the rider to take over from Bernard Hinault at Renault. He had finished in the top three at the Tours of the Mediterranean and Corsica, and Tirreno-Adriatico that year.
There were a number of early attacks in the race, including efforts made by Frenchman Bernard Vallet, Swede Tommy Prim and Swiss rider Serge Demierre, but each of them was brought back.
So coming into the final lap, there was a still large group together of about 35 riders, containing most of the favourites. Hinault was missing though, having quit the race early on. Spain’s Marino Lejaretta did his best to reduce the numbers in the group with a series of attacks, but the Italian team stayed on the front and chased down any moves.
At the bottom of the climb for the final time, Saronni’s team started to fade, and Boyer seized his chance. He attacked and gained a few seconds. However, spectators and television viewers were taken aback to see that the chase of Boyer was being led by LeMond with Saronni on his wheel.
The Italian then shot past LeMond, who was being chased by Kelly. Saronni took the gold, seven second ahead of LeMond with Kelly finishing in third. Boyer dropped back to tenth.
LeMond was asked after the finish about chasing down his team mate and he responded, “We were in the last 500 metres and Boyer only had about a 20-metre lead, which there was no way he could keep. I didn’t think he could win and I didn’t want him to. He’s just not a friend. He’s never won a professional race and I didn’t think he was the kind of guy who should be World Champion.”
“I was wearing the U.S. jersey, sure, but there really wasn’t a U.S. team and I definitely wasn’t part of it. I paid for my own trip to England, everything. There was no support from the U.S. federation. The team I was racing for was Renault.”
The 1982 edition of the Worlds would not be the last to involve controversy.