August 1983. I am 9. My older brother will soon turn 13. We are cyclists already. Our father has taught us how to handle the bike. We ride a lot, it’s literally a child’s play. Our game is to re-create the pro races. For the Tour de France, for example, we decide how many stages we will race, where the start and finish lines will be, the alternate classifications (mountains, points…). Then, after the race, we conduct fake interviews and publish a wonderful sports newspaper made of handwritten sheets and out of focus pictures of us. This is awesome. And very serious.
We are pros. We really are. My brother is Hinault, of course. He’s the eldest so he gets to pick. I am usually the wingman. When we play super heroes, he’s Superman. I am Batman. We play rock stars he’s the lead vocalist. I am the guitarist. When he is Tarzan, I am… Cheetah (true story) ! We ride, he is Hinault. I am… Bernaudeau. It is not as bad as it sounds. Bernaudeau is actually a decent cyclist. In 1979 he was recruited by Cyrille Guimard in the Renault team to be the new Hinault, or something like that. But it doesn’t work. After only 2 years, Bernaudeau splits and goes to Peugeot. Bad move. He will never deliver the original plan of filling the badger’s shoes. So, by 1983, I am tired of being Bernaudeau. I want to be somebody cooler (sorry Jean-René, kids are kind of cruel). And I want to be in the Renault team. My brother has a Renault jersey that I am really jealous of.
We search names and nothing rings a bell. Except, of course, Fignon, who’s just won the Tour. But I have no affect for Fignon. It doesn’t work. None of Hinault’s team mates stands out. “What about Greg LeMond ?” my brother says. Yes, what about him ? He explains : “he’s American, he’s young, he just won the Dauphiné…”. I look at the “Miroir du cyclisme” pictures. At the time, America is a kind of dreamland for us, it is supposed to be 10 years ahead of us Europeans for just about everything. I am an avid Star Wars fan. That young dude has a Luke Skywalkerish look.“Yeah. He is kind of cool. I guess.”. That’s decided. For next week, when we do our very own world championships, I’ll be Greg LeMond.
That morning, we do the race with my father. My brother and him are Hinault and Fignon, respectively, and I am Greg LeMond. Which means we’re all from the Renault team but, as tradition goes, I am the only American as we enter the only nation-teams race of the year. I’d love to say that I was insanely superior to my fellow competitors. That I destroyed the race because of my tactics. That I left no chance to my opponents. Truth is, I suspect those two let me win, actually. No matter what, as I cross the line or, may I say more accurately when I reach that lamppost, I am ecstatic. World champion ! Woo-Hoo !
Going home I beg my father to buy me a world champion jersey. He looks at me and says : “you don’t buy a world champion jersey. You have to win it.”. That brings down the whole thing a little but that’s ok. He’s right. I know I’ll win one later. Did I tell you I am 9 ? Anyway. That very afternoon, we sit in front of the telly to watch the actual world championship pro race. There are a few attacks. Riders disappear one by one. It seems hard. A funny detail catches my eye : in the descent, at a narrow curve, they chose to expand the road up onto the sidewalk. And riders go and ride over the sidewalk. I think it’s very strange. Soon there’s just one guy left at the front. That’s my guy. Greg LeMond is about to win the world title. Yay ! Life imitates art. I feel like I am world champion too, in a sense. I don’t know exactly of which discipline but it feels like I hit the jackpot. I don’t know yet. But I am hooked. A 30 years journey begins.
More than 2 decades later, I prove my father wrong. As it turns out, you CAN buy a world champion jersey. Or do I win it ? Do auctions count ? All I know is : it ain’t cheap, but thanks to my Canadian and cycling nut friend Kendrick, I can now display what is probably one of the finest items in my collection. A 30 year old jersey.
1983 World Champion jersey replica made by Castelli.
Signed by Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault.
by Nicolas @NL_LeMondFans