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Bernard Hinault Takes the Proust Questionnaire

From Issue 80 • Introduction by James Startt, Illustration by Matthew Burton.

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French hero Bernard Hinault remains one of the greatest champions in cycling history. Besides winning the Tour de France five times, Giro d’Italia three times and Vuelta a España twice, he also won races as diverse as the Tour of Lombardy, Grand Prix des Nations time trial, Paris–Roubaix and the world road championship. His bold style translated off the bike, where he has often grabbed headlines for his outspokenness. Hinault is rarely verbose and sugarcoats nothing. So it was with typical Hinault efficiency that he responded to our Proust questionnaire.


What is your idea of perfect happiness? Happiness is having what you want without being too demanding.

What is your greatest fear? Like everyone, I think. Dying.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? I have no idea.

What is the trait you most deplore in others? People who are not frank, who don’t tell the truth when they are facing you.

Which living person do you most admire? My wife and parents.

What is your greatest extravagance? I don’t have any.

What is your current state of mind? I’m happy to be alive.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue? No response.

On what occasion do you lie? No response.

What do you most dislike about your appearance? Nothing. I am who I am. If you don’t like yourself you commit suicide.

Which living person do you most despise? Why detest someone? If somebody does me wrong, I couldn’t care less about them.

What is the quality you most like in a man? Honesty.

What is the quality you most like in a woman? Honesty.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? I really have no idea.

What or who is the greatest love of your life? My wife and children.

When and where were you happiest? If you do what you love, you are happy all your life.

Which talent would you most like to have? Oh, to have been able to speak more languages.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Nothing at all, except to speak other languages.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? To have raced bikes for 12 years and to have won some races.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? To come back as myself, but better.

Where would you most like to live? For me, where you are born is where you most want to live.

What is your most treasured possession? Oh, I don’t really have one.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? He who lives outside and has nothing.

What is your favorite occupation? For 20 years, it was racing bikes and now it is to enjoy life at its fullest.

What is your most marked characteristic? I have a can-do attitude and I am hard on myself.

What do you most value in your friends? Friendship, pure and simple.

Who are your favorite writers? I’m not a reader, so I’ve never asked that question.

Who is your hero of fiction? No response.

Which historical figure do you most identify with? That would be Charles de Gaulle. He persevered to reach the top and he saved the country of France.

Who are your heroes in real life? My family. My parents, my wife and my children.

What are your favorite names? No response.

What is it that you most dislike? Dishonesty.

What is your greatest regret? I don’t have regrets. What I didn’t achieve, I didn’t achieve.

How would you like to die? Hmm, maybe with a heart attack. You don’t suffer and you don’t make others suffer.

What is your motto? When you want to do something, you can.

From issue 80.