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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.

GF            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.

GF            Why?

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?’]

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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.

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