Coming off his second Tour de France victory in 1989, Greg LeMond was eager to add a third jewel to his Tour crown in 1990. With a strong team backing him, the U.S. rider was the top contender for the Tour, but not the only one. After the nail-biting excitement of the 1989 Tour, the best ever, it's only natural that the 1990 Tour would not be quite as thrilling. Nonetheless, it's a solid race that features some aggressive action and challenges from unexpected directions: most notably Claudio Chiappucci, in the Tour ride that launched him into the limelight as a pro, and Pedro Delgado, the 1988 winner.
WCP's coverage of the 1990 Tour runs a bit over an hour and a half. The presentation of the race is fairly well paced, though of course very compressed. Pleasingly, the race coverage gets right to business with the prologue time trial. A profile of each stage listing its starting and ending points and major climbs is shown before each stage, which is very useful.
The early stages are dealt with very quickly but clearly. The mountain and time trial stages are where the race action heats up, and the coverage of climbs like the Alpe d'Huez and the Tourmalet is nicely done. We get a definite sense of the tactics, both team and individual, that are in play on the slopes of the mountains. Without radio contact with their team leaders, the riders have to make their own decisions on the spot as to whether to give chase to an escaping rival or sit back and wait, which adds another level to the skill necessary to win at the Tour.
However, one area where the 1990 Tour coverage slips up is in keeping track of the overall classification or the time gaps between the riders. We're kept abreast of the two riders who are fighting for the top spot, but there's no listing of the overall classification after key stages to show who's gaining ground and who's losing it, and what the fight for the other two podium positions looks like. In fact, there's not even a listing of the stage results, so often we don't know what the time gaps are among the riders.
The Tour route isn't as aggressive as the previous year, leading to fewer dramatic shifts in the overall leader, but we do see serious challenges to LeMond's attempt to win the yellow jersey for a third time. Last year's runner-up Laurent Fignon isn't up to the task, but with the help of his super-domestique Miguel Indurain, Pedro Delgado puts up an uneven but emphatic fight. Keep an eye on Indurain in this race: it's often been said, and with good reason, that if he hadn't been obligated to work for Delgado, Indurain could have won the 1990 Tour as well as the five Tours that followed. Claudio Chiappucchi is also a rising star, and his unexpected attack on one of the mountain stages is memorable for its glorious hopes as well as its unfortunate conclusion.
Sharp-eyed viewers will note the appearance of Australia's first star in the pro peloton, Phil Anderson; other English-speaking favorites making an appearance include Canadian Steve Bauer and U.S. rider Andy Hampsten. Fans of the Spring Classic races should keep a sharp eye out for a certain young Johan Museeuw, as well!
The 1990 Tour, like the 1986 and 1989 Tours, is a showcase for individual strength, wits, and willpower as a number of top contenders battle it out to see who will be on the top step of the podium in Paris. It's a great race, well worthy of any cycle racing fan's collection.
The 1990 Tour de France appears in its original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1; it has been remastered for its release as part of the "Remastered LeMond Series," and it shows. The image quality of live television broadcast material from 1990 is just not going to be perfect no matter what, but the DVD transfer looks remarkably good nonetheless.
The print is sparkling clean, with no noise at all, no print flaws, and minimal edge enhancement. The picture is soft, but it's very watchable. On occasion, the camera angle changes and we get footage that's more muted for a short time, but this is clearly an issue with the source material being uneven. There's never any color variation outside of camera changes, and most of the shots look great, with bright, vibrant colors (watch for that lime-green points jersey!) and an overall fresh, natural look.
Phil Liggett provides a voiceover narration for the race, and is always entirely clear and understandable. A subtle musical score appears at times, and is well handled so that it's always subordinate to Liggett's narration. We also start getting a touch of "race ambiance" at times, which is nice. The post-race interviews with Greg LeMond are also clear and distinct.
The menu setup is very straightforward; you can play the race from the start or select specific stages. No special features are included.
The 1990 Tour de France is a great race, with aggressive riding from a variety of top competitors challenging returning Tour winner Greg LeMond for the top spot in Paris. While I'd have enjoyed a more extended treatment of the race, the hour-and-a-half coverage on this DVD provides a solid look at the race and shows us the key moments of the struggle for the yellow jersey. The remastered transfer offers excellent audio and video quality, so viewers who own this race on VHS will want to upgrade. It's highly recommended.