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 Fora.tv 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:


IF YOU WANT LEMOND TO WIN, TRY TO KILL HIM
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?"

LeMond
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.

7 comments:

Scott LeMond said...

The LeMond family truly enjoys your blog

soloyan said...

As I said on a well known forum :

I'm so happy...that I took my Trek bike last week to get a new paint job !

When the guy from the shop asked if I wanted Trek decals back on the frame I just handed him...Gitane decals !

That should do it.

Claire D. said...

Thanks very much Scott!
It means a lot to me.

Albert Pallas said...

Since I'm also a big Lemond supporter (Claire knows that), I would like to add my five cents to this story:

Let me first go back seventeen years, to 1991. This year Greg took defeat for first time in his career on the Tour de France. He was the favourite, but his bad performace on the Pyrenées left him with no chances to win that Tour.

I'm pretty convinced that, more than health problems (which is sure that he had), giving up that year's Tour of Italy was key to 'run out of petrol' on the Pyrenées. I believe that if Lemond have never give up on that Tour of Italy his preparation for that Tour would have been much better (remember the '89 Tour of Italy...Greg was about giving up, but he admitted later that don't doing that was key to won the Tour later. Same than in 1990).

I'm explaining that because I'm pretty sure that this year was a fustration for him, because he never accepted that defeat. In fact, I have always thought that, being on form, he should have won that Tour easily. Psycologically, all his rivals were K.O. from the beginning.

Later, the increasing of the performance of all the people due to the massive and increased use of drugs (I said massive and increased because the drugs have been on all the sports always, and so on cycling) gives him no option to fight for another Tour. The way he ended up his career was probably very sad for him and also fustrating, so this is I believe the background when Greg retired.

Then, his bikes company had problems and the brand was taken by Trek. And later of the story that we all know...

I'm sure Greg was absolutely clean, because you just have to take a look to his palmares...he was just brilliant from the beginning. No discussion about that...

Having that in mind, I'm sure that making public his oppinions about doping, the relation of it with LA and taking in account the fact that his company was under Trek, which was the brand used for LA team, and being LA a cycling icon admired for most of the Americans, was not too much intelligent.

I mean, you can have all the reason, but you can not go against your own interests...making public his oppinions like he did, Greg had a few to win and a lot to loose. And also, as it happened, the easy answer of the people is that he has sour grapes, he is jealous, and bla bla bla...

But anyway, for the same reason, I'm convinced that he loves cycling and that his oppinions are coming from the heart. Simply that, so he has maybe not measured the consequences, because he's doing what he believes he has to do for the sake of cycling.

Maybe we will never find a person who has given too much to a sport and recieved so few (specially since he retired) from it...really sad.

Honestly, I can partly understand Trek, since it's probably a hard situation for them, being between Greg Lemond and all that Lance Armstrong (the biggest fraud on cycling history), has represented for the brand. I just sincerely hope that Greg will find another brand to support him and that he will double or triple his current sales.

Moreover, this next week i will have built my '92 Lemond Carbon frame, and incredible frame and a piece of history. My little prove of admiration to Greg...

I will proudly rode the bike and show the Greg Lemond's name to all the cyclists and Trek's that may be around there.

Personally, I would love to be able to met him someday in person and to express him all my admiration and respect for all he has done and he continues doing. Let's hope so :)

Thanks for all Greg, and go on!

Albert.

Thierry said...

As a LeMond supporter I just have to write down some words to let him know that there are people that believe in him. I know he reads this blog (cfr. Scotts reaction) so Greg ... when you read these reactions, just know that we believe in you.

In my eyes you still are that champion that had to compete with things that were to big to handle with your legs.

First there was the Hinault story in 1985 where you were lonely in a team which only tought about Hinaults success. 1985 should have been your first Tour victory.

Then there was that hunting accident which prevented you to win 2 more Tours.

In 1990 you had to compete with doped riders yet. But you won because you were so talented that they never could have beaten you.

From 1991 you had to compete riders which performance in 1 year increased by 25%. Impossible without doping.

I'm sure that you could have won much more races if even you would have taken dope, but a real champion like you never needed that. Your palmares just shows how talented you were.

If we count your 3 Tour victories + 2 in 87-88 and 1 in 1985 you would have won 6 Tours. Let's say that in 1991 you were the best of the not doped riders. That would be 7 Tours.

I just hope that one day the thruth comes out about Armstrong and all these naïve people that keep supporting their fake hero, have to appologize to you.

Greg, good luck in your battle against the rest. We support you.

Ralph said...

I have been a LeMond fan for years. I can't believe all the mean comments I have read from people about Greg over this recent turn of events with Trek. I believe his true supporters will buy his bikes even if Trek does not make them. I am sure he will have no problem finding another manufacture for his bikes. Your true fans are pulling for you Greg! Thank you Claire for this great web site for all us LeMond fans to show our support for Greg. Ralph...

soloyan said...

In response to Thierry...as a very huge fan myself, I have a slightly different view of the 85/86 tour results, if you're interested :

1985-

In just the prologue and the first TT, Hinault takes 2'55" to LeMond. In the mountain, before St Etienne, there is no evidence of any superiority from LeMond whatsoever. Meanwhile, Hinault takes the lead of the race in a break away with Herrera and increases his advance.

In the St-Etienne stage, LeMond manages to take Hinault 2' back only to get rid of Roche. He is allowed to do so because he is Hinault's team mate.

Hinault falls hard and has difficulty breathing during the Luz Ardiden stage. LeMond is ordered (on false information) not to push as he can and only gets a bonus of 1' on the finish line.

The final TT is almost statu-quo : LeMond wins by 5". Hinault wins the tour by 1'42".

My verdict : in this Tour, LeMond's only opportunity has been Hinault's fall in St Etienne. Had he not fallen, Greg would not have been in such a position in Luz Ardiden and would probably not have won the final TT.

1986-

In the prologue and first TT, Hinault gained just...47" on Greg LeMond. He knows that if he goes the fair way, he does NOT stand a chance. This is his last tour. He promised it to Greg for his past loyalty but has now second thoughts : he has never been so popular and could be the first at 6 tour victories.

Hinault decides a hold-up for the first mountain stage and takes the lead for...5'25". If he can keep it up, he can win the tour, if not, he can still say he has been working for Greg from the start...only he forgot to tell him that ! By the way, had they not been team mates, there is no way greg would have let Bernard go alone with Herrera.

On the second mountain stage, he goes for a knock-out and fails : what could have worked a few years back with lesser riders will not work with Greg LeMond. The american wins the stage and comes back only 40" behind Hinault.

Entering the Alpes, Greg takes 3' more only by following Zimmermann, not even attacking himself. He took the yellow jersey, his integrity is intact.

Then the Alpe d'Huez truce : both Greg & Bernard will tell you that they could have dropped the other if they wanted to. One thing is for sure, from what we had just seen and would see right after that, Hinault didn't look in the position of attacking Greg. He would loose more time in the Puy de Dôme climb and then win the last TT for only 25" (LeMond having a crash and bike change).
Greg LeMond wins the tour for 3'10".

Verdict : Greg LeMond was just far superior to his mentor Bernard Hinault, who would never admit it. Nor would he admit that he is, in fact, the first major rider to have focused his entire season on the tour de France in 1986. And failed.

But Hinault succeded, with a little help from his good friend Bernard tapie, in putting a spectacular show that only worked because Greg LeMond was Hinault's team-mate, so he was predictable.

As a good mentor, Hinault also prepared Greg LeMond for what would later occur in his life & career. That tension management would help Greg LeMond in winning both 1989 & 1990 tour de france.