Words: Graeme Fife Portraits: Peter Drinkell
Madiot arrives, smiles, affable greeting. We shake hands, he nods consent to the clicking accompaniment of the camera shutter, we sit and there ensues a curious verbal ping pong which I find increasingly unsettling. My hand, holding the recording machine, begins to tremble. I hang on.
GF Do you feel yourself constantly on the counter attack against big teams with enormous budgets?
MM I’m not bothered. It’s not my problem. I do what I do with my team.
GF And what of your team?
MM It’s okay.
MM It goes better when we win a stage.
GF What about the resurgence of French cyclists in the past few years?
MM Oh, not my concern. I concentrate on my team.
GF What of the difference in tactics between your day and today?
MM A bike race is a bike race. It’s the legs that are important. [He taps his thigh to emphasise the point. I feel a growing unease… I haven’t got any grip on this.]
GF And the head…
MM Avec. With. [Silence] If possible.
GF What about earpieces?
MM I’m against them.
MM Because I think it’s a bad thing. It blocks races.
GF Some directeurs are absolutely for them.
MM That’s because they want to block the races. [He laughs, a spontaneous, delighted, jovial outburst as if to say: ‘Oh, come on… isn’t it obvious?’]
GF But riders do attack.
MM Yes, only what counts is winning. [The implication, surely, being that a lot of riders attack to grab some television airtime, without any thought of driving the break to the finish. False bravado. Flash in the pan. Why don’t I pursue this? Because he has flattened the question with an extremely weighty full stop and a quizzical look, as if to say: ‘Not interested in that one. Next?’]
GF What did you feel about Armstrong’s domination?
MM Rien. Non. Rien. Nossing. It’s not my problem, never was my problem.
GF But it changed the Tour, didn’t it?
MM [A long drawn out pause as if he’s trying to locate a name he’s temporarily forgotten, then, with a low, swallowed guttural sound] No.
GF But those seven years of stranglehold?
MM No. It’s gone.
An extract from issue 34.