It’s 1986, and I am 12 years old. My father has always been keen on cycling, and we are watching the main cycling event of the year : the Tour the France. I don’t remember exactly if that was the first Tour de France I followed, but what I distinctly remember is that I was immediately caught by Greg. I liked his smile, those blue eyes, his blond hair, his openness, the fact that he was always friendly with people and of course the fact that he had a natural talent for cycling, a one in a million guy.
From that year on I became a fan of Greg Lemond. I suffered when I heard about his hunting accident, I was relieved when I heard that he survived it, and I was happy when I saw him again on a bike.
But it was in 1989 when I really cried in the last stage, that now famous ITT in Paris, when he managed to reverse the deficit he had in the overall classification. God, that was the mark of a true champion! I thought: “ Man, he was sure and convinced he would win, and he has fucking done it ! Yeah ! ”
And that’s the point about Greg : as the legendary swimmer Diana Nyad once said when he interviewed him for his radio program “The Savvy Traveler” in the NPR. “There is a big difference between a winner and a champion. There are a lot of winners, but just a few champions. And Greg is one of them, because he’s all heart and he’s all soul”.
And it’s true. He has something special, something that a few people have. He had it at the beginning of the eighties, when he came to Europe. He had it in the nineties, when he had already won three times the Worlds (one as a junior) and three times the Tour the France. And of course, he still has it. He just and simply has it.
So after some years, Greg retired, and I continued following him in the only way I was able to do in that moment. Collecting stuff and always looking for pictures and information about Greg. Now, looking back to all these years, I realize that they brought me the thing I wanted the most: having the same bike frame (the model) that Greg rode on. It seemed impossible at that time, but dreams sometimes come true.
Let’s move on to the bikes. As the fan I am, I always wanted one of those eye-catching bikes carrying his name. Not only they were beautiful and looked terrific, but they also were top-notch, combining both the best in materials and design, and the geometry of Greg.
You probably know it as fans, so that’s just as a curiosity. Just reverse Greg’s initials and you will have “Lemond Geometry”. The frames featured a slightly longer top tube, and slacker head and seat tube angles. That is, a true pro geometry.
So first I needed to know which frame I was going to look for, and the choice was going to be tough. The first point was the material. Greg used all the materials while he was a professional rider. In fact, he was a pioneer. The first cyclist to use a full carbon frame in a 3-week race (he used it in 1991, when he raced with the Lemond gusseted carbon frame, manufactured by Craig Calfee). The first one to ride on a titanium bike (as happened in 1991 as well, using titanium frames provided by Merlin). And of course he used steel, as most cyclists did.
So I decided to go for a carbon frame, and the one I liked the most was that gusseted carbon frame. Mainly because it was all carbon and it has not the problem of the old TVTs being offered on EBay. They were nice and had a beautiful color scheme. But the aluminum lugs were suffering from corrosion after the years (that was a common problem with the carbon frames with aluminum lugs, as the sweating of the rider ended up in that point). So the Lemond by Calfee one was the best choice. Now the problem was to find it…
I looked for it almost for a year or two with no luck. I was about to give up but one day … gosh ! It was not exactly what I was looking for but it looked great. A GL titanium frame, the same blue-grey faded one he used in the ’92 season, which was manufactured by the titanium experts Litespeed. The frame was in an excellent condition, so I thought that it was a great frame anyway. With the same design principles as the carbon one, and being a titanium one it was a frame for life. Now, the difficult part : the guy selling the frame was living in the USA, and sometimes they don’t want to ship outside of the lower 48 states because of the paperwork needed.
After some emailing, I convinced him to ship the frame to Spain in case of winning the auction. So it was then just a question to be ready for the final seconds of it. The days before the end of the auction were so long, as I was checking often the auction to see if the price was rising too high or not. Fortunately it didn’t. At least the price fitted my budget, and in the last seconds…bang ! Auction won ! Finally, I had my LeMond frame !
Some days later I received the frame and I was thrilled with it. I still remember when I opened the box. Not only it was very light, but it also looked amazing and the condition was almost perfect…. So, having it in my hands, and as I said about Greg…yeah, I had fucking done it!
The next step was to visit my local bike shop to build the bike. I had already bought a Selle San Marco Regal saddle. A new edition. And I also had the Scott Drop-In bars. They both were a must for the bike. The only thing left to choose were the parts to be used, which was easy. A Campy gruppo, as Greg used during most of his career, and Time pedals. That was it.
I even managed to get a pristine pair of Delta campy brakes, but the mechanic warned me that they were not going to work properly with the new levers. Moreover, the new brakes were far more powerful that the old Deltas, so I ended up selling them again. What I can say, though, is that they probably are the most beautiful brakes ever designed. I hope Campagnolo will manufacture them again. Updated and improved, in the near future.
But some days before, it happened. I was performing one of my regular searches on EBay, when I saw it. A pristine Lemond Calfee carbon frame. I contacted the guy and he was willing to ship to Spain. It was just a question of patience and budget.
Of course, I managed to win the auction, and finally, I had the diamond ! If the first impressions of the titanium one were so good, this time it was a hundred times more. What a frame ! The only reason it’s not hung now in a wall, as if it was a painting, is because I wanted to ride it so badly. The design, with the carbon gussets, was simply outstanding. The weight…even 500g lighter than the titanium one ! All in all, it was a lightweight. As a curiosity, I believe only 500 units of these frames were manufactured. The one I have is #263.
So yes, I took a lot of pictures of the two brothers together and you can judge it, but I think they look great. I wouldn’t sell them for all the gold of the world. This is the closest I can be to what Greg felt about the bike when he was a professional rider … riding exactly the bike you wanted.
I ended up building the carbon one. The titanium frame is still packed, waiting its time to be built. Hopefully, some day…
by Albert Pallas – @AP_LeMondFans