It’s a story of great Britons and Bretons as five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault joins the fold for Team Raleigh in the coming season.

In his racing career Hinault was known as le Patron for the respect he commanded inside and outside of cycling. Now one of France’s most famous sons and a former rival of the great TI-Raleigh team of the 1970s and 80s will reprise his patron role with Team Raleigh, adding weight to the team's desire to return to the pinnacle of professional cycling.

Hinault’s appointment was brokered largely through fellow Breton and former Breton champion Eric Berthou (pictured below, right), who retired from racing in 2013 and took on a managerial role with Team Raleigh.

Berthou has been instrumental in acquiring the signatures of several other French stars including former Track world champion Morgan Kneisky and rising cyclocross star Matthew Boulo, plus Alexandre Blain who has re-signed for a second season.

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(Photo thanks to Jean Vantalon)

Together with seven UK riders on the books for 2014, including British Cycling’s top ranked rider Yanto Barker, a strong Franco-British alliance has been born, one which Hinault says will help export cycling to new markets:

"Cycling is a sport that is exported widely and we must look at the growth it has in emerging countries such as Britain," said Hinault. "Now races and teams are on the four corners of the globe, which was a building process that started in my time, making cycling an international affair.”

Despite Hinault’s battles against Raleigh in his racing career, he had a lot of respect for the famous Heron.

“I remember the TI-Raleigh team with Joop Zoetemelk very well (former Raleigh Tour de France winner). In 1979 when I was in the yellow jersey of the Tour de France Joop and I found ourselves alone on a breakaway and I beat him in the sprint on the Champs Elysees. The following year Zoetemelk rode for Raleigh and he took overall victory in the Tour, still very good memories.

"It was a very good team with great riders. Now this is a new team with young people and I am sure they will go on to much success and podium places.”

Talking about Hinault’s appointment, Berthou said: “I have traveled extensively through cycling, starting with Barloworld in South Africa then onto Spain with the Caisse d'Epargne, and also Italy. But my roots at in Brittany, a strong heartland of French cycling, so I thought it logical to ask Breton’s most famous rider to become a patron for Raleigh.

“There was an obvious connection between the racing scene in Breton and in Britain, plus we’re next to the ocean and, like the British riders, open to inclement weather.

“And most importantly, like the TI-Raleigh team I learned that it is better to have Bernard Hinault with you than against you (laughs).”

Cherie Pridham, Team Director adds: "We’re honoured and proud to have such a personality and legend in the cycling world working with us. With his role at the Tour de France Bernard is a massive name in professional cycling and will certainly bring a lot of interest and exposure to the team.

"He will be offering support and guidance, both in the UK and in his native France, and will be joining us at selected events next year."