Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mark Whitehead

If you want to hear really nice things about Greg LeMond, listen to Mark Whitehead on the latest episode of the Competitor Radio. Mark Whitehead rode with Greg as a Junior and simply found him "phenomenal".

Among other quotes:

"He is American cycling"
"THE best of all time was Greg LeMond"

and after LeMond won the Junior Worldchampionships in 1979, at age 18:

He told me "I'm gonna win the Tour de France", and I told him "You're crazy Greg!"

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Open your mind

I have been going through all the documents available online about the complaint filed by LeMond against Trek, and the countersuing by Trek, as well as through the presentation that Trek's CEO, John Burke, did to his employees and that's available on YouTube, and it becomes quite clear to me that Trek does not have much of a case.

They claim that Greg LeMond's comments against doping and Armstrong hurt the sales of the LeMond brand. If it was so true, why don't they show actual figures of sales? All they seem to be able to come up with are a few angry mails by potential buyers and retailers. In the presentation on YouTube, they show the sales numbers until 1999, showing the increase in sales, but nothing after Greg LeMond's supposedly hurting comments in 2001. Unless they can come up with some graphs showing a clear correlation between his comments and a drop in the sales, their arguments are unconvincing. Unconvincing, and thus seeming as unethical as it looks at first sight: they want to ignore doping and assert that speaking out against it is hurting cycling (and not sure about Trek that they care about cycling, just about selling bikes probably...).

As Greg LeMond really well put it himself:
"It's not me by speaking out against drugs that's causing this bad publicity for cycling, it's those who choose to cheat and take drugs."

As for LeMond bashers -but I doubt that they come here- they really need to get informed, read what LeMond actually said, and not repeat again and again the same argumentations already made by other people, and simplistic interpretations of what Greg LeMond said, without knowing the real quotes.

I highly recommend this post on the Boulder report, which invite people to "open their mind" about Greg and his stance against doping. It's a really nice post, and it says a lot of what I think myself, but that I wouldn't be able to express as well in my approximative english. There's even one comment by someone who admits to have changed his opinion about Greg after reading it. I'm quoting here the end of this really nice post:

But before you damn Greg, before you write him off as an embittered ex-pro and accept the meme that he says what he says only because he wanted to be the only American ever to win the Tour de France, look at the man's life, in full. Look at what he really said. Look what's happened since. Look at the state of the sport today and ask yourself if he said what he did because he hates the sport, or because he loves it. If you were in his position, that's what you'd want, too.

Also from several comments I read on some blogs and forums, I know that this interview on the competitor radio made a lot of people "open their mind" and admit after listening to it that they didn't see Greg anymore as "bitter", but rather as well-spoken and having a coherent and well-informed opinion against doping. I guess people coming here already know about this interview. If not, don't miss it! It's really worth every minute of it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

If you want LeMond to win, try to kill him

The title of this post could be addressed to Trek's people...
It's actually the title of an article by Bill Lyon, published at the end of the Tour de France 1990, explaining that LeMond was never better than after having had to face strong adversity.

I must admit that I may have been over-optimistic in my last post with thinking that times were changing regarding internet posts about Greg LeMond. Though it's true he does get a lot more support than two or three years ago, you can still easily find here and there "LeMond is bitter" when reading about Trek vs. LeMond. I must also admit that it annoys the hell out of me, especially when a large number of these posts are starting with "The truth is, LeMond is just jealous..." But well, it comes from the same people who keep on reharshing: "Truth is, Armstrong never tested positive". Yep, if that's their kind of truth, LeMond's supposed bitterness is easy to disregard.

In his interview on to which I put a link a few weeks ago, Greg expressed that he was well aware of what was written about him on the internet. And I can't help but thinking that he must be incredibly strong mentally. I couldn't bare to read about myself half of whats' written about him... But this man seems so confident in his opinions, so sure that he is doing what is right, that he doesn't seem to really care what some people can think or say. For that, I truly admire him.

And since I find it a nice read, and a really good memory about Greg's career, I'll put the article here:

Author: Bill Lyon Knight-Ridder News Service Edition: FINAL

With apologies to that incomparable aerialist Michael Jordan, to that geriatric bringer of heat Nolan Ryan, to that ubiquitous merchandiser of jockdom Bo Jackson, to that lord of the rinks Wayne Gretzky, but the best athlete in the world right now is . . . A skinny, scrawny shrimp with a cherubic face and a crooked smile who doesn't look as if he could be a threat at even, say, a brisk game of checkers.Ah, but hunched over the handlebars in that aerodynamic tuck position, legs as tireless and relentless as a metronome, he becomes something of a human bullet and brings a whole new dimension to, and appreciation of, the notion of human locomotion through pedal power.

In short, Gregory James LeMond is hell on wheels.

He won the Tour de France yesterday. It is the longest, biggest, richest, most important bicycle race in the world, and before LeMond came along, hardly anyone in the American sporting public was aware of it. But now he has won it three times, twice in a row, last year by all of eight seconds, thereby giving a whole new meaning to winning by a nose, this year with a glorious and gutsy and irresistible rush on the next-to-last day, on the very day that he called it, called his shot, and now it has reached the point that if he doesn't win it every year you are going to hear people who don't know spokes from sprockets bleating: "So what's wrong with LeMond and that Tour thing, anyhow?"

has done, imagine a youth from, say, Brazil, going to Canada and learning how to play hockey and then winning the Stanley Cup. Frequently. Only one other American had ever even entered a Tour de France before LeMond, who was a stranger in a strange land involved in a strange sport.

Now the French embrace him. He has won them over with his grit. They adore his boldness, how he metamorphoses from this inoffensive wisp into this single- minded fang-bared killer in the sport that so enflames their passion. And they love that he has taught himself their language, and it probably does not hurt that his name sounds French, although his ancestry is mostly Scotch- Irish, and that basically what he is, is a kid from Nevada who was nuts for skiing until one winter there came a drought and he was stuck biking and got hooked on that. He won the Tour this year breezing, laughing, on cruise control. Yet, as recently as 10 days before, he had floundered along in 35th place, an alarming 10 minutes in arrears of the leaders, there were ominous headlines. But then he has been grievously underestimated before.

It is not necessary to know anything about cycling to understand that Greg LeMond is long on gumption and perseverance. His whole life is a miracle of will. Soon after he became the first Yank to win the Tour, in 1986, he lay bleeding to death, gutted by a shotgun blast in a hunting accident. He lived, but then you knew that. Before winning his second Tour, he had to overcome an emergency appendectomy, tendinitis, a broken wrist and a serious leg infection. Before this year's Tour, he spent five weeks fighting a virus, and then had food poisoning for dessert.

It has become abundantly clear that the surest way to make Greg LeMond win is to try to kill him. He still carries an estimated 30 small lead pellets, No. 2 buckshot, inside his barbed-wire body. "The doctors said there's really no danger leaving them in," he once explained to a horrified interviewer. "Your body forms scar tissue." By now, his body has had a lot of practice. The race itself is a manufacturer of scar tissue, on both the psyche and the physique.

The Tour de France is a crusher of will, a destroyer of spirit and an agony of the body. This year's route covered 2,112 miles and yet the
average speed was more than 24 miles per hour. That's with a couple of fairly serious mountain ranges, the Alps and the Pyrenees. There were attacks and counterattacks, breakaways and switchbacks, impossibly steep climbs when a biker stands straight up and barely can keep up with a pedestrian, followed by terrifying descents at 70 miles per hour where the merest brushing of one wheel against another can trigger a crash that swallows 30 riders. As a matter of fact, LeMond Which, of course, meant he was a mortal lock.

Again. Of course you have to be a bit mad to climb onto the saddle to begin with, submitting yourself to more than 2,000 miles and three weeks of soul-searing excruciation. But to appreciate what Greg Winning on cruise control crashed this year. Got up bleeding, with the middle finger of his braking hand swollen and useless. That's the end of him, they said.

Which, of course, meant he was a mortal lock.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The times, they are a-changin'

About LeMond vs. Trek again, I recommend this article in Cyclingnews: it is very complete and presents clearly both sides of the affair.

You can also get the full complaint filed by LeMond against Trek there:

It's a lot about Armstrong and comments Greg made about him. I know I'm far from being objective about this, but I really don't see where Trek is trying to go by saying that Greg hurt Trek sales with being outspoken against doping. That's as close to being doping apologists as it gets...

Also from the complaint filed by LeMond, this little quote is quite interesting:
On November 27, 2007 (...) an attorney for Mr. Armstrong contacted Mr. LeMond's attorney. Mr. Armstrong's attorney indicated that he would like to broker a "truce" between Mr. Armstrong and Mr. LeMond because Trek would no longer be in a position to temper things between Mr. Armstrong and Mr. LeMond (...). The suggestion of a truce was interesting since Mr. Armstrong had only recently inserted himself and sought to damage Mr. LeMond's position in a property dispute that Mr.LeMond had in Montana.

Looks like someone is afraid of Greg. One can wonder why?

This affair puts into light how much the vision of the present state of procycling is a two-speeds thing, just as the peloton was/is still since the mid 90's.
A growing portion of cycling fans and journalists no longer have their heads in the sand and cannot accept anymore the statement that being outspoken against doping is damaging for cycling. Another part, which was the majority still a few years ago, thinks it's still possible to keep going with procycling in a status quo, and that people like Greg are damaging the sport.

I can imagine that, a few years ago, the same news that Trek wanted to drop LeMond bikes would have triggered on the internet a lot of comments in the spirit of "good riddance!". Now you can read here and there that people decided they won't buy Treks anymore... Reading posts on boards and blogs from a few years ago, compared to now, is really interesting. The contrast is striking.

Clearly, since about the beginning of 2007, the wind has turned. The Landis affair, the total fiasco that has been the Tour 2007, confessions by Riis, Zabel and others... how can you not want cycling to change?

As for cycling innovations, in the fight against doping, Greg has been ahead of his time. It's a sweet-sour feeling now, seeing people start to see that he was right, and at the same time wishing he's been heard before...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Trek to stop selling LeMond bikes

From several sources: VeloNews, Bizjournal ... : Trek wants to end the deal with Greg LeMond.

From the VeloNews article, it's quite clear it's because of Greg's comments regarding Armstrong:

"Greg's public comments hurt the LeMond brand and the Trek brand," Burke said.

I'm not sure yet what to think about it... Maybe it has to do with Richard Burke's recent death. Greg had nice words about him:

Greg LeMond, who sold his bike brand to Trek in the early 1990s, called Burke a visionary.

"My heart goes out to the Burke family and the entire extended Trek family," LeMond told VeloNews.

"He was a visionary in the world of cycling and together with his son, John, built an incredible family business. I will always remember him as a man of integrity and he will be dearly missed."

Maybe his relationships with John Burke, son of Richard, is not so good.

As Greg said himself, it's no fun having a muzzle, and his deal with Trek has been a big one for long.
Let's wait and see what will come out of it...