Friday, July 6, 2007

Where I stand

LeMond bashers are all really loud out here on the internet, and I doubt big time that they are really more numerous than LeMond admirers... just... louder and more eager to babble the same arguments against him over and over again.

First I got really annoyed with this bashing, but now it just makes me roll my eyes, and recent developments in the cycling world are making me really proud to be a LeMond fan.

I'm french and discovered cycling thanks to Greg. I got dragged by my mom when I was 13 to go see the arrival of the time trial of the Tour de France in 1989 in my hometown of Rennes. It was raining heavily, I got squeezed painfully against barriers, and yet I got hooked. The sound of the wheels on the cobblestones, the incredible pace of each rider arriving, it all just felt fascinating. And then in the far, there was this guy standing on the podium with a yellow jersey and a flashy pink cap. I loved the colours...

After more smashing in the crowd and fighting to get out of the fuss, my mom and I got stuck close to a stage where the post-race show "A chacun son tour" was filmed. And on that stage, a few meters away from me, the guy with the yellow jersey and the pink cap was being interviewed. His adorable accent while speaking french amused me, and he was telling he wanted to thank his wife for this victory and that he was happier than when we won the Tour in 1986.

Faint memories of an American winning the Tour a few years before came back to my mind... I also remembered the news of that American rider getting injured and not able to defend his title. But all was really blurry on my mind.

In the next few days, I didn't miss any broadcasting of the Tour stages. I got totally appealed to the story of this guy who seems so happy to just be on his bike, always smiling, nice with journalists and making funny comments. I must also acknowledge that teen me found him really handsome.

The Tour 1989 was a pure delight to follow. And the final time trial was the most exciting sport event I ever saw in my life. Being a Greg LeMond fan on July 23rd, 1989 was a blessing. As we say in french: "Le pied total"!

I followed the next Tours and other important races that were shown on TV with great thrill. I gathered all press articles about Greg I could find. I cried when he announced his retirement in 1994. And I grew up, and forgot about the Tour, forgot about Greg...

Until 2001. At that time, I knew Lance Armstrong was the new champion. I found his story also quite interesting... I had quite a bit of admiration for the guy. I watched the Tour sporadically, with a bit of nostalgia, remembering the excitement it gave me at the end of my childhood. But somehow, nothing felt really appealing. Those guys look too much like robots. None of them were answering interviews in french with cute accents anymore... None of them looked like smiling kids happy to ride a bike.

And then came the LeMond controversy. And as many, I first wondered. I didn't like what I was hearing. I didn't want to think about doping. During all my former LeMond fan years, I was shrugging at and pushing away all the doping insinuations. My Greg was clean. The full peloton was clean. These guys were heroes.

And I didn't like to hear the guy I remembered as "utterly nice Greg" critizing someone. And I wondered. Is he jealous of Lance? I needed to know more.

In my pile of old articles from the 1990's, I found back one article where
Greg was mentioning Dr Ferrari and the danger that this man was going to be for the future of cycling. I wasn't convinced, but I started to get big doubts about what cycling had become.

I kept on following cycling from far, as well as what Greg was saying about it... I got back a bit of interest. I replayed my tapes of the Tours 1989 to 1992. I still loved what I was watching.

And then came 2004 and the Simeoni episode. All my admiration for Lance disappeared instantly. That guy appeared to me as a brute, a man ready to all to win and make others shut up.

I'm now thinking Armstrong is a cheat, and one of the godfathers of the mafia system that cycling has become. I think he is threatening people opposing him. I think the money involved around him and his image as a hero will probably protect him for the rest of his life.

Notice that I said "I'm thinking". Not "I'm convinced". Not need to scream at me... If you have arguments to convince me I'm wrong, my ears are wide open.

And I won't yell at people who say LeMond is a bitter old champion full of sour grapes. If that's your opinion, then try to convince me that you're right. Without reharshing the same false arguments (for instance the usual "LeMond must have doped, he held the record for the fastest time trial in the Tour for 15 years"). I won't ban negative comments about Greg here. Express yourself!

The recent event, the USADA vs. Landis arbitration, LeMond's revelations of his very painful childhood, his courage in testifying and coming out, have increased my admiration for the man big time.

Greg LeMond, the nice, polite, smiling young rider, turned into a tall man of high standards, honesty and coherence. A true human being. Let me say it once again, I'm proud to be a LeMond fan.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cela me fait chaud au coeur de voir un blog sur Greg LeMond. Comme toi, je suis fan depuis 1989.
Comme toi, je le suis encore aujourd'hui. LeMond restera longtemps une source d'inspiration pour moi.