Laurent Brochard: happiness on the eve of scandal

The Frenchman won in Loudenvielle and the World Cup in 1997. The following year the Festina case was uncovered and he was one of those punished after confessing to having doped.


Laurent Brochard's best year started off crooked, but straightened out. The Frenchman was stopped for a month due to a herniated disc, which not only did not prevent him from covering a masterful 1997, but also served as an excuse to preserve the victory of his life: the rainbow jersey.

Brochard was a member of the powerful Festina, where he was one of Richard Virenque's most loyal gregarious members, although he also knew how to make the most of his chances of success. On the first mountain stage of the Tour, between Pau and Loudenvielle, the watchmaking team mounted an offensive strategy and threw pieces ahead. Pascal Hervé starred in the first attack at 130 km and left with the Spanish Javier Pascual Rodríguez, who, by the way, crowned the Tourmalet. Then, in the area between the Aspin and Val Louron, it was Brochard who stood out, accompanied by Oskar Camenzind. The Frenchman was overtaken on the ascent to this last pass by a stellar trio, Virenque, Pantani and Ullrich, but he had the strength not to waste much time and linked up on the descent. Three kilometers from the finish line, with the complicity and protection of his leader, he set off on a curve to march alone to victory.

"I was going very fair, with cramps in my legs, but I made the effort not to get off the hook and then I got the reward of a job well done," said the Le Mans rider about a very special victory, on July 14, National Day of France. The winner also wore the Mountain polka dot jersey, which was later inherited by Virenque. Brochard claimed this first and only career victory in the Tour de France three months before taking the world title in San Sebastian. Those were times of happiness, which were not going to last long.

The following year the Festina case exploded in full Tour. Brochard was one of the cyclists expelled, arrested and later punished after confessing to his doping. Willy Voet, the masseur who was neutralized by the customs police with an arsenal of prohibited substances, told in his book 'Chain Massacre' that Brochard managed to get rid of a positive with lidocaine in the World Cup thanks to a certificate signed by the doctor Fernando Jiménez which guaranteed that he had medicated for his hernia. Saved the rainbow. But he never wiped the stain.

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