50 x 35 x 3cm. Acrylic and mixed media on canvas. L'Equipes covers. £450.
Jeannie Longo

"The girl who knows only how to ride a bike."

Not many cyclists, or even athletes, embody such a profound,
and entirely complete eponym.

Jeannie Longo rode for France in the inaugural Women's Olympic cycling event, in the 1984 Los Angeles Games. She has competed in every Olympics since, winning one gold, two silver, and a bronze medal.

In her sport of cycling, she has won every title available. This includes UCI World Championships a total of 13 times, Grand Boucle three times (1987-89), 24 French titles, and broken the hour record six times (with a gap of fourteen years between two attempts).

Currently, aged 53, Longo has won well over fifty national championships. 2011 saw her once again victorious - in the French Elite Time-Trial Championship at Boulogne-sur-mer. “A 58th title is a figure somewhat symbolic because it (1958) is the year of my birth,” said Longo.

Her career achievements in the saddle almost eclipse those of Eddy Merckx. Indeed, Longo's ruthless approach to competition earned her the moniker 'The Cannibal' – a title previously bestowed on the all-conquering Belgian.

Longo's unique, polarised behaviour forged a reputation for being difficult to work with. Somewhat maverick in her methods, she has fallen foul of the French national team on numerous occasions. With Paris-based weekly Le Nouvel Observateur suggesting she was "The best with the worst of personalities".

Yet, such apparent irreverence tells only part of the story. Based in Annecy, Haute-Savoie, Longo's Alpine training ground lies in the shadow of Mont Blanc, and the rooftop of Europe. Here she keeps goats. Buys fresh milk from a local organic farm, and basks in the rarified purity of the mountain air. "Everything in my home is organic, from cosmetics to cleaners," says Longo, herself suffering allergic reactions to man-made chemicals and additives. Whilst some pack gels and vitamin pills, Jeannie Longo travels with a stash of organic carrots.

LONGO. An eponym.

All artwork, text and images © James Straffon 2024.