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LeMond at the start of the last stage in the 1990 Tour de France.
|Full name||Gregory James LeMond|
June 26, 1961 |
La Vie Claire
|Infobox last updated on
4 March 2012
Gregory James LeMond (born June 26, 1961 in Lakewood, California) is a former professional road bicycle racer from the United States and a three-time winner of the Tour de France. He was born in Lakewood, California and raised in Reno, Nevada.
In 1986, LeMond became the first American and the first non-European cyclist to win the Tour de France. The following year he was shot and seriously injured in a hunting accident. He was able to return to the Tour in 1989, winning it dramatically in its final stage. He won again for the third time the following year in 1990. He is one of only nine cyclists to have won the Tour three or more times.
Greg LeMond was a standout junior rider who quickly established himself as one of the most talented cyclists in the professional circuit. After his initial success on the junior circuit he began competing against older, more seasoned competitors. He gained the attention of the US Cycling Federation's national team, riding for them at the 1979 Junior World Championships held in Argentina. There he won gold, silver and bronze medals, the highlight being his spectacular victory in the road race. He was selected for the 1980 U.S. Olympic cycling team, the youngest ever, at 18, to make the U.S. team; however, the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow prevented him from competing there.
With the guidance of Cyrille Guimard he joined the professional European peloton, first racing with Union Sportive de Creteil. He won a stage in the demanding Circuit des Ardennes, coming in third overall and proving to himself that he could compete with the best riders in the world. In 1981 he began riding for Renault-Elf-Gitane.
LeMond won the silver medal at the 1982 World Cycling Championship, and in 1983, he won the World Championship outright, becoming the first American rider to do so. His enormous talent - his overall strength, climbing ability, his capability to ride a fast time trial and his recovery capacity - suggested LeMond would be an excellent prospect for the more demanding Grand Tours.
LeMond rode his first Tour de France in 1984, finishing third in support of team leader Laurent Fignon, and winning the young rider classification. The following year he was brought across to La Vie Claire to ride in support of team captain Bernard Hinault who had regained his form and was attempting to win his fifth Tour. Hinault led through the early mountain stages, but suffered a crash and came into difficulty. At this point it was clear that LeMond was an elite rider capable of winning the Tour in his own right. However, the managers of his La Vie Claire team ordered the 24-year-old LeMond to ride in support of Hinault. Instead of staying in the lead group and riding to win, LeMond let the leaders pull away and dropped back to aid Hinault. Hinault won the 1985 Tour, with LeMond finishing second, 1:42 behind. LeMond was clearly frustrated by the events, and later revealed that team management and his own coach Paul Koechli had misled him as to how far back Hinault had dropped during the crucial mountain stage. Regardless, he rode as the dutiful lieutenant, and his aid was crucial to enabling Hinault to gain his fifth Tour victory.
The following year in the 1986 Tour, LeMond was made co-leader of the La Vie Claire team alongside Hinault, with Hinault publicly promising to ride in support of LeMond to repay LeMond for the work he had done in 1985. What he did not say was that the help was contingent upon LeMond demonstrating that he was clearly the better rider. Hinault was in superb form, and had the chance to win an unprecedented sixth Tour. In Stage 12, the first mountain stage of the race in the Pyrenees, Hinault attacked the lead group and built up an overall lead. By the end of Stage 12, Hinault had a five-minute lead over LeMond and the other top riders. He claimed he was trying to draw out LeMond's rivals, but none of these attacks were planned with LeMond. He was clearly willing to ride aggressively and take advantage of the opportunities presented. LeMond was never in trouble, except by his own teammate. The following day Hinault broke away again early but was caught and then dropped by LeMond on the final climb of Stage 13, allowing LeMond to gain back four and a half minutes. The next three stages brought the Tour to the Alps. On Stage 17 LeMond and Urs Zimmermann dropped Hinault from the leading group, and the end of the day saw LeMond pulling on the yellow jersey of race leader, the first time it had ever been worn by an American rider. The following day in the Alps saw Hinault attack again early on the first climb, but he was pulled back. Attempting an escape on the descent, he was unable to separate himself from LeMond. The two La Vie Claire team leaders continued to pull away as they ascended the next col, and maintained the gap as they reached the base of the final climb, the vaunted Alpe d'Huez. They put on a showcase of strength and form through the twenty-one switchbacks, cresting the summit together. LeMond put an arm around Hinault and gave him a smile and the stage win in a show of unity, but the infighting was not over. Hinault attacked again on Stage 19 and had to be brought back by teammates Andy Hampsten and Steve Bauer. Commenting on the team situation prior to the final individual time trial at Stage 20, LeMond offered the following with a wry smile:
"He's attacked me from the beginning of the Tour De France. He's never helped me once, and I don't feel confident at all with him."
LeMond had to keep his eye on his teammate and rival throughout the race. Hinault rode aggressively and repeatedly attacked, and the division created in the La Vie Claire team was unmistakable. LeMond would keep the yellow jersey to the end of the race and win his first Tour, but he felt betrayed by Hinault and the La Vie Claire team leadership, declaring that "[Hinault] hasn't helped me one iota.... I have no respect for him anymore.... I know I'll never be friends with him again after this race. Not the way he's treated me." LeMond later stated the 1986 Tour was the most difficult and stressful race of his career.
Disaster struck LeMond while turkey-hunting in California, April 20, 1987, when his brother-in-law accidentally discharged his shotgun within a few feet from LeMond, striking him in the back with over 40 pellets and nearly killing him. The 1987 Tour de France was just two months away. He would spend the rest of his career with 37 shotgun pellets remaining in his body, two resting in the lining surrounding his heart. LeMond missed the following two Tours while recovering. During this period he was also beset by other physical ailments, suffering appendicitis that required surgical intervention. Subsequently trying to push his return to cycling too quickly, he developed tendinitis in his knee and had to spend more time in recovery.
After struggling in the 1989 Paris-Nice race and failing to find his form, LeMond informed his wife Kathy that he intended to retire from professional cycling after the 1989 Tour de France. In May, LeMond rode the 1989 Giro d'Italia as preparation for the Tour to follow, but was consistently dropped on the climbs during the Italian race and was not considered an overall contender coming into the Tour. LeMond's own most optimistic hope was to finish his final Tour in the top 20.
Without the weight of expectation or the typical pressure suffered by a Tour de France GC contender, LeMond surprised observers with a strong ride in the 1989 Tour de France prologue, where he finished fourth out of 198 riders. Buoyed by this result, LeMond seemed to ride himself into better condition during the first week's flat stages, and he was coming into peak form by the time the Tour reached the mountains. LeMond and his former teammate and rival Laurent Fignon exchanged the overall lead several times. But coming out of the mountains during the race's final week, Fignon seemed to have won the see-saw battle and he held a 50 second advantage over LeMond going into the final stage time trial.
Fignon had won the Tour twice before in 1983 and 1984, and was known as an extremely capable time trialist. It seemed almost impossible for LeMond to make up 50 seconds over a 25 kilometer course, which would require LeMond to gain two seconds per kilometer on one of the fastest time trialists in the world. LeMond rode the time trial using an aero helmet and innovative aero bars, which kept his body in a more aerodynamic position than that of the traditional time trial equipment. Instructing his support car not to give him his split times, he rode flat out and finished in a record pace to beat Fignon by 58 seconds and claim his second Tour de France victory. As LeMond rejoiced in victory on the Champs-Élysées, Fignon sat in shock and wept. The final margin of victory of eight seconds was the closest in the Tour's history. LeMond's average speed in the time trial, 54.545 km/h, was the fastest in Tour de France stage history; since then, only the 1994 prologue and David Zabriskie's 2005 time trial performance has been faster.
LeMond's return to the top of the sport was confirmed several weeks later with his second World Championship, again beating Fignon and outsprinting Dimitri Konyshev and Sean Kelly at the line. He was named Sports Illustrated magazine's 1989 "Sportsman of the Year", the first cyclist to receive the honor.
LeMond won the Tour for the third time in 1990. This time riding on the much stronger "Z" team, LeMond would get help in controlling the race. An oddity of this tour was a first day breakaway that gained over ten minutes on the field. The break had no major riders in it, and as Team Z had a rider in the bunch, they did not ride the break down. The break did contain a young Italian rider by the name of Claudio Chiappucci, then at the start of his career and relatively unknown. The break's 10 minutes 35 second gain on the field resulted in the leader's yellow jersey being passed between members of the opening day break until arriving at last on the capable shoulders of Chiappucci. Chiappucci rode an inspired race, and did not give up the yellow jersey until the final individual time trial. LeMond ended up finishing the time trial more than two minutes up on Chiappucci, gaining at last the leader's yellow jersey which he wore down the Champs-Élysées. That year's Tour was won without the leader taking a single stage of the race.
In 1992, LeMond became the first American to win the Tour DuPont, a short-lived American answer to the Tour de France that took place from 1991 to 1996. LeMond won the prologue in record time and it was his first American win since the mid-1980s. The 1992 Tour DuPont victory was Greg LeMond's last major win of his career.
LeMond retired from racing in 1994, blaming mitochondrial myopathy for his deteriorating performance since 1990. His decline from the top ranks began during the 1991 Tour de France when he cracked on the Col de Tourmalet and faded in the mountains after a strong start, during which he held the yellow jersey for several days, eventually finishing seventh. In 1992, he abandoned the Tour de France in the Alps; in 1993 he failed to finish the Tour of Italy and did not even start the Tour de France. During that Tour of Italy, he plummeted to third-last before abandoning with just two days left. In 1994, he abandoned his final Tour in the first week, before even the first mountainous or challenging stage. In 2007, he said he believed he had not had the illness after all, assigning his weakened condition on overtraining and the ongoing effects of the lead pellets embedded in his body from the shotgun accident.
In an interview with Bryan Malessa, LeMond discussed his career and his place among cycling's five Tour winners, such as Indurain and Hinault. Noting he had essentially given away the 1985 Tour and missed what could have been two very strong years in 1987 and 1988, while still ending up with three career Tour wins, he offered "I'm confident that I would have won five Tours."
LeMond founded LeMond Bicycles in 1990, while he was still racing, but it faltered, something LeMond blames on "undercapitalization" and poor management by his father (a former real estate agent). In 1992, LeMond struck a deal with Trek in which it would license his name for bicycles it would build, distribute and help design, but which would be sold under LeMond's name. This is often summarized as a sale to Trek, although he still owns the company. LeMond says the deal with Trek "destroyed" his relationship with his father. In 2001, the Trek deal proved painful for LeMond, as he was forced by John Burke, the head of Trek, to apologize for comments that seemed to impugn Lance Armstrong, by then a more important marketing force for Trek than LeMond. After a showdown with Burke, LeMond read a formal apology to Armstrong.
In March 2008 LeMond filed a lawsuit against Trek for breach of contract, claiming that they had not made a "best efforts" attempt to sell his bicycles. His complaint included statistics detailing slow sales in some markets, including the fact that between September 2001 and June 2007, Trek only sold $10,393 worth of LeMond bikes in France, a country in which Lemond remains both famous and popular. A month later Trek countersued and stopped building bikes under the LeMond brand. In connection with that announcement Trek also gave a short timeline of the Trek-Greg LeMond association. These lawsuits were settled in February 2010. Although the details of the settlement were confidential, it involved a $200,000 donation by Trek to 1in6.org, a charity with which LeMond is affiliated.
In 2002 LeMond, with his parents-in-law David and Sacia Morris, friend Michael Snow and J.P. Morgan & Co. fund manager Jorge Jasson, became investors in the exclusive Yellowstone Club, a Big Sky, MT private ski and golf community founded by timber baron Tim Blixseth and his wife Edra. Each of the five partners paid Blixseth $750,000 for one percent shares in the exclusive resort. LeMond also purchased several building lots and maintained a property at the resort. LeMond and partners sued Blixseth in 2006 following reports of a Credit Suisse loan to the resort of $375 million from which Blixseth reportedly took $209 million in a disputed partial payout for his ownership stake. The Credit Suisse loan was based on a $1.16 billion Cushman & Wakefield valuation of the resort, for which LeMond and partners each sought $11.6 million for their one-percent shares. LeMond settled his suit with the Blixseths for $39 million in 2007; however, he and his partners remain creditors as the Blixseths defaulted on a $20 million payment followed by their divorce and bankruptcy of the Club in 2009.
Greg LeMond also founded LeMond Fitness. He took up auto racing for a few years. In the 1990s he created a restaurant called Tour de France on France Avenue in a retail district of Edina, Minnesota. He lives in Medina, Minnesota, United States. More recently, he was the guest speaker for Sumitomo Drive Technologies' International Sales Meeting in Cancun, Mexico on May 2, 2008. In 2008, LeMond narrated an award-winning documentary for Adventures for the Cure.
Greg LeMond was one of professional cyclists of note to openly discuss the sport's extensive and troubled relationship with performance-enhancing substances. This stance has brought him into conflict with some of the most famous names in the sport.
In July 2001, LeMond criticized Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong for associating with Michele Ferrari, an Italian physician and sports trainer who has at various times admitted to practicing blood doping, advocated controlled use of the banned substance erythropoietin by athletes, and accused by professional cyclists of providing banned substances.
Italian appeals court absolved Ferrari of guilt on both the charges of sporting fraud and the charges relating to abuse of his medical license to write prescriptions "because the facts do not exist" to support these charges.
When Lance won the prologue to the 1999 Tour I was close to tears, but when I heard he was working with Michele Ferrari I was devastated. In the light of Lance's relationship with Ferrari, I just don't want to comment on this year's Tour. This is not sour grapes. I'm disappointed in Lance, that's all it is.
A month later, LeMond issued an apology for this comment, calling Armstrong "a great champion and I do not believe, in any way, that he has ever used any performance-enhancing substances. I believe his performances are the result of the same hard work, dedication and focus that were mine 10 years ago."
LeMond spoke out again three years later, after additional Tour de France wins by Armstrong. "If Armstrong's clean, it's the greatest comeback. And if he's not, then it's the greatest fraud." He also described the fallout of his 2001 statement, alleging that Armstrong had threatened to defame him, and that his business interests had also been threatened:
[Armstrong] basically said 'I could find 10 people that will say you took EPO'... The week after, I got multiple people that were on Lance ... Lance's camp, basically saying 'you better be quiet,' and I was quiet for three years. I have a business ... I have bikes that are sold ... and I was told that my sales might not be doing too well if ... just the publicity, the negative publicity.
In a 2007 interview, LeMond accused Armstrong of trying to sabotage his relationship with Trek bicycles, and described him by saying "I just think he's not a good person and that's all I can say. I mean, he's a facade, if you knew the real Lance Armstrong that I know. I think he fronts himself as a guy who is loving and caring. From my experience, he's not a nice guy and I've had some very difficult periods with him. And I don't believe he'll finish up having any friends in cycling."
For his part, Armstrong points the finger back at LeMond, suggesting an iron injection that LeMond states he received during the 1989 Giro d'Italia was in reality an injection of EPO or some other performance-enhancing agent. “We will have the opportunity to tell the truth to the authorities, and Greg LeMond will tell the truth about 1989 I hope, because he, too, needs to tell the truth. I have nothing to hide.” 
On May 17, 2007, LeMond testified at a USADA hearing convened to weigh the evidence of doping by Floyd Landis during the 2006 Tour de France. Under oath, he described a phone conversation he had with Floyd Landis on August 6, 2006, as well as another with Will Geoghegan, Landis' business manager, on May 16, the evening before the testimony. The major points of the testimony are as follow:
Following the testimony, Landis' legal team announced that Geoghegan had just been fired as Landis' business manager. Geoghegan was also observed by reporters approaching LeMond during the break. LeMond later stated to reporters that Geoghegan had admitted making the call, and "tried to apologize". Landis has admitted to being in the same room as Geoghegan when the call was made, and defended his decision not to fire Geoghegan until after the LeMond testimony, saying he had been waiting for legal advice. Landis testified at the hearing that Geoghegan came to know of LeMond's childhood sexual abuse through discussions with the defense team, and obtained his personal mobile phone number by syncing their phones together. Geoghegan blamed "a beer or two" for his action, and entered an undisclosed rehab facility on May 21. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office opened an investigation of the incident as a potential witness tampering and then terminated the case without prosecution on July 31.
LeMond's testimony is supported by an online posting Floyd Landis made on the Daily Peloton forum, in which he states that LeMond disclosed personal information of a sensitive nature to Landis, and threatens to use the information to damage LeMond if LeMond continues to speak about Landis' doping case:
Unfortunately, the facts that he divulged to me in the hour which he spoke and gave no opportunity for me to do the same, would damage his character severely and I would rather not do what has been done to me. However, if he ever opens his mouth again and the word Floyd comes out, I will tell you all some things that you will wish you didn't know and unfortunately I will have entered the race to the bottom which is now in progress. For the record, I don't know Greg, and have no more respect for Greg than I have for people who go through life blaming others for all of their problems. You are not a victim of others Greg, you are a pathetic human who believes that if others didn't cheat (not sure about you) you would be the President and all the peasants would bow to your command. Join reality with the rest of us who win some and lose some and keep on smiling. ...
Several weeks after his testimony, Greg LeMond and his wife Kathy gave an extensive interview to the Sunday Times. He provided additional details on the circumstances of his 2001 apology to Armstrong, stating that Trek, the longtime manufacturer and distributor of LeMond Racing Cycles, had threatened to end the relationship at the behest of Armstrong. He described the two years that followed the forced apology as the worst in his life, marked by self-destructive behavior that ultimately led him to disclose his sexual abuse to his wife and seek help. LeMond also described how being a victim of molestation had impacted both his racing career and his life since. In September 2007, Greg LeMond became a founding board member of the non-profit organization 1in6.org, whose mission is "to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthy, happy lives".
In 2010, after Floyd Landis admitted to doping while riding for Armstrong's USPS team and later at Phonak, he personally contacted LeMond to apologize for the events of 2007, and the two reconciled their differences. Although he declined to make details of the conversation public, LeMond acknowledged his support of Landis and sought to assist his former adversary in obtaining legal representation for the ensuing US federal investigation. LeMond told the NY Daily News he believed 'most of Floyd Landis' statements' about doping.
On July 23, 2009, LeMond wrote an opinion article in the French newspaper Le Monde questioning Alberto Contador's climb up Verbier in the 2009 Tour de France. In the opinion piece, LeMond calculates Contador's VO2 max as 99.5 ml/kg/min, which LeMond claims has never been achieved (LeMond has been calculated at 92.5 ml/kg/min). "The burden is then on Alberto Contador to prove he is physically capable of performing this feat without the use of performance-enhancing products," LeMond goes on to declare. LeMond equates this to a Mercedes winning a Formula One race. "There is something wrong," LeMond writes. "It would be interesting to know what's under the hood." However, other experts in exercise physiology have questioned LeMond's calculation of 99.5 ml/kg/min. In an article from Cyclingnews.com, published later the same day as LeMond's piece, expert Andrew Coggan questions the validity of LeMond's allegations. He states that "a more reasonable estimate of Contador's power during that ascent is about 450 W, which would require a sustained VO2 of 'only' 80 mL/kg/min"(although if this is operating at 90% his VO2 Max would still be the very high figure of 89 mL/kg/min); which is "still high, but not so high that you can definitively state that it can only be achieved via doping". Contador was not found to have doped at the 2009 Tour. However he tested positive for Clenbuterol after winning the 2010 Tour and was stripped of this title.
WD = Withdrew