They did it together
Family is something you should cherish. They’re you’re closest friends and the only ones you can always rely on. That’s a fact in my family and I’m sure it’s the same for Greg LeMond. When Greg was a professional rider he had 3 kids, Geoffrey, Scott and Simone. They are Greg’s treasures and he often got homesick when he was racing somewhere in Europe while his kids were not with him.
But there’s one person who was with Greg during his whole career. His wife, Kathy LeMond. From the early days when Greg was racing for Renault and lived in an apartment without any luxury untill the last day of his career in the Tour de France of 1994.
This story is about a picture that shows so much emotion that you can read the story just by watching it.
If you say “Tour de France 1989” you say “8 seconds”. This picture was taken a few minutes after Laurent Fignon crossed the finish line and lost the Tour by 8 seconds to Greg LeMond. I remember the Belgian reporter saying when all cameras were focussed on Fignon who was laying on the ground: “If only the French TV could show the image of Greg and his wife. Look at them. This is beautiful”.
Oh yes, it was beautiful. This was even better than most romantic movies. Surely when you know the whole story behind it.
It all started in 1987. Greg broke his wrist in the Tirreno Adriatico and went back to the U.S. to recover. He went hunting and got shot. We all know that story. His recovery was long and difficult. It took him about 5 months to return in a race on the 30th of August. He started totally out of shape and lean in a Belgian criterium at St-Baafs Vijve. It was allready a victory for him to finish that season on a bike.
In 1988 he joined the Dutch team PDM. A season that brought no improvement. The season started bad. A crash in Harelbeke (Belgian classic) got his tibia inflamed. A few months later he started in the Giro d’Italia and immediately lost 1’47 in the prologue. A few days later he had to abandon the race due to the inflammation of his tibia that was getting worse. No Tour de France, no results. 1988 was a season to forget.
As a former Tour de France winner (1986) Greg LeMond had to find a new team for 1989. The peloton had lost it’s confidence in the American and didn’t want to contract him. Untill a Belgian team, ADR, asked him to join them.
It all started well with some good results but then his team stopped paying him due to cash problems. Greg returned to the U.S and didn’t train anymore. He was totally demotivated. Two years full of misery and now a team who doesn’t pay. He got back to his family and stayed there a while. In the Trump Tour he raced with the Coors Light team but he was completely out of shape. His team manager, José de Cauwer, convinced him to start in the Giro d’Italia .
Greg was nowhere. He was pale, had no strength and lost minutes every day. On the 2nd of June, the peloton was riding in bad weather conditions to Tre Cime de Lavaredo. Greg lost over more than 17 minutes and appeared to be lost for cycling. That same evening he called his wife and told her with a lot of emotions he would quit cycling. There was no reason to continue. I’m not good enough for this peloton.
That phone call might have been the secret of his succes after his hunting accident. Kathy told him to stop putting pressure on himself and gave here husband exactly the words he needed. Two people calling from Italy to the U.S. were never so close like during that conversation. Without her words … who knows what would have happened.
Tre Cime de Lavaredo (1989) – pictures courtesy of Fotoreporter Sirotti
Back to the Champs-Elysées, 2 months later. Hugging like they’ve missed eachother for a long time. The camera must have heared the words of the Belgian reporter. The hugs and kisses were shared with the world. A must see for every romantic soul. The expression on her face says it all. More than 2 years of being laughed at, being treated as nobody, … she’d seen it all. But now it was over.
One year later she showed 5 fingers on the top of Luz Ardiden during the Tour de France of 1990. The number of seconds between her husband and Chiappucci. A few days later Greg won his 3rd Tour de France. THEY … did it again.
Watch the hug here at 10:22
By Thierry – @TM_LeMondFans