It must have been 1983 when I first saw an American cyclist, Greg LeMond, on television becoming World Champion. I was 10 years old and wasn’t really paying attention to cycling. Playing with my toys was much more fun than watching men suffering on their bikes.
Two years later my mom was watching the Tour de France of 1985 when I suddenly heared her voice screaming. Bernard Hinault had just crashed in the sprint of the stage to St-Etienne. Hinault was her favorite. The Badger with his dark hair and deep aggressive eyes was now covered in blood. He was wearing the yellow jersey and was on his way to win his 5th Tour de France. It was not the man with a yellow jersey covered in blood that caught my attention but another rider of the same team wearing a special jersey. I loved the La Vie Claire jersey but this one was different and I loved it. It had almost the same design as the La Vie Claire one but the colours were yellow, green, red, white and a part with the red bullets of the best climbers jersey. I was Greg LeMond wearing the “combiné” jersey. It was awarded to the rider that did best in all the classifications, the yellow jersey, green jersey and polka dot jersey. It was seen as the jersey for the best all-round cyclist. That jersey, the vintage but then amazing Oakley sunglasses and the fact he was an American, which was really hot those years, made him a unique personality in the peloton and I admired it.
In 1986 my dad was watching the Tour de France and I sat next to him when the peloton was riding towards Superbagnères. Hampsten attacked, Hinault was dropped. When Greg counter attacked he joined his teammate Hampsten. I’ll never forget those images and the words of my dad saying “Take a look at this son”. “This is teamwork”. “Hampsten attacked to help LeMond and now they’re taking Hinault down”. And so it was. Greg won the stage and Hinault lost the Tour to him. The next day I cut a cartoon out of the newspaper. A cartoon showing Greg and Hinault during the stage. After the Alpe d’Huez stage I did the same thing by cutting a cartoon showing Greg and Hinault in bed with their jerseys. When we moved out of our house I’ve lost those cartoons, but I hope getting them back by searching the newspaper archives on microfilm in the library.
We all know what happened to Greg after the Tour of 1986. He never got his best shape back and lost 2 years due to a hunting accident and other injuries. I lost my interest until there was the prologue of the 1989 Tour de France in Luxembourg. Greg was back on television wearing a flashy yellow blue outfit and some nice yellow Oakley sunglasses. I got a flashback of 1985 when I saw him in that “combiné” jersey. My hero is back. I wasn’t cutting pictures out of newspapers during that Tour but I followed the race every day and supported the American hero on a bike. Three exciting weeks with ups and downs made me “officially” a fan of Greg LeMond. I loved everything about him. Watching him winning the Worlds in Chambery was just another confirmation of what I already knew in 1985. This was the best rider I’ve ever seen racing.
I was almost 17 years old when the Tour de France of 1990 started in Futuroscope. No more toys for me. It was cycling time. In the prologue Greg used special triathlon bars from Scott. Again one of his new innovations he introduced in cycling. Reading the newspaper after the prologue I saw a picture of Greg with the bars (see picture). I decided to cut it out and keep it aside. That picture was the start of my collection. I started hunting pictures everywhere. I bought newspapers, magazines during those 3 weeks and really begged neighbours to keep their newspapers for me. My collection was growing fast and I decided to put it in a A4 formatted notebook. No structure, no story, just pictures.
Today I’m still bothoring people to keep newspapers for me. That one picture of the 1990 prologue has become a closet containing more than 5000 pictures, magazines, dvd’s, jerseys, … . Now I’m working on a structured album. No more A4 but an nice looking A3 album.
After 30 years I have finished 1 album containing Greg’s story of the 1991 Tour de France. Oh yes. The next 30 years are well filled. I’ll keep you posted.
By Thierry – @TM_LeMondFans