Richard Virenque (born 19 November 1969 Casablanca, Morocco ) is a former French cyclist.
The mountain specialist won seven times the polka-dot jersey of the Tour de France, making record holder in this category.
Virenque began his professional career in 1991. Climbing His talent was already a year later, when he drove a day in the yellow jersey in the Tour in 1992 and finished second in the Mountains classification. Virenques offensive, combative style of driving did ascend to the most popular cyclist in France it quickly. His trademark be upwards stretched index finger was when he won a stage.
From 1994 to 1997 he was able to slip over four times in a row, the polka-dot jersey of best climber in the Tour. His best results in the overall standings reached Virenque in 1996 as third behind Bjarne Riis and Jan Ullrich in 1997 as a second behind.
At the Tour in 1998 he stood as one of the big favorites, but was after a few days in the center of the so-called Festina affair, when a systematic doping practice in his team Festina was uncovered. In contrast to almost all of his teammates - including the two-time Tour runner-up Alex Zülle - Virenque long time tearfully implored his innocence until he also admitted taking banned agent in court in 2000 and was then blocked for half a year.
2001 Richard Virenque won in an unusual outlier manner the flat world cup race Paris -Tours. The following year he won the Tour de France stage on Mont Ventoux, one of the legendary mountains of the Tour. Meanwhile, no longer a top climbers to Virenque a long-cherished wish fulfilled in the Tour de France 2003: Following a successful breakaway on the stage to Morzine he conquered after eleven years again the yellow jersey, had it but the very next day in the rise to L' Alpe d' Huez pass to Lance Armstrong. With the 2001 and 2002 tested by Laurent Jalabert strategy to collect mountain points in leaving groups on high mountain stages, Virenque maintained at the 2003 Tour the mountain jersey well ahead of Laurent Dufaux to Paris.
In 2004 he finally got his seventh mountain jersey, beating the previous record that had been held by Federico Bahamontes and Lucien Van Impe, each with six victories mountain jersey. In the same year Virenque won the tenth stage of the Tour the French national from Limoges to Saint -Flour and thus won the seventh Tour stage win of his career. At the end of the tour he was awarded the most aggressive rider. He was driving at the time for the Belgian team Quick Step - Davitamon.
At the end of the 2004 season Virenque announced his retirement from active racing. During the Tour de France, he acts as an expert of the TV station Euro Sport.
For a hobby race in 2006 in the French Alps Virenque fell heavily. In addition to other injuries he suffered while an open break on the forehead and a broken nose.