Panic at the Col du Marie-Blanque.
Imagine you almost achieved your goal but then in 1 second you loose it all and you can’t find an helping hand. It’s all slipping through your fingers and before you even realise what’s going on, it’s already too late. That’s what Greg must have felt when he was at the top of the Col du Marie Blanque in the 17th stage of the 1990 Tour de France.
It’s again a hot sunny day. The riders are still suffering from the day before. The stage to Luz Ardiden where Greg took time back on Chiappucci and closed the gap up to 5 seconds. Everybody agreed at the end of that stage. Greg LeMond is going to win his 3rd Tour de France.
The peloton is preparing for a 150 km ride from Lourdes to Pau. A traditional stage containing the Col d’Aubisque and the Col de Marie-Blanque leading the peloton out of the Pyrenees with an up-and-down final.
I’m waiting for the live broadcast on the Belgian television, but the waiting screen with that annoying clock, that indicates when the live images will be available, tells me I have to wait for more than 10 minutes. So I decide to read the paper and cut out some nice pictures from the day before. Finaly … the Eurovision song. Everybody needs to be quiet now. It’s Tour de France time.
The commentator and newspapers all expect an attack of LeMond today so he can take the yellow jersey from Chiappucci. When I take a look at the profile, I’m not sure if that’s going to happen. There’s still 70 kilometers to go at the top of the Col de Marie-Blanque and the final kilometers of that mountain is not so steep. But I know what happened at Saint-Etienne and I’m excited.
There’s a small breakaway of 6 riders at the bottom of the Col de Marie-Blanque, the last difficulty of the day. The gap with the peloton is 9m40. The Banesto’s with Delgado are leading the pack. Chiappucci and Lejaretta are at the second row followed by Greg. Are they just controlling the race or are they preparing something. A few minutes later I get my answer. Delgado attacks being followed by Chiappucci, Lejaretta en LeMond. A few riders are joining them. Is something going to happen ? Will Greg attack because he seems to feel good today ? My enthousiasm gets tempered when the helicopter view is showing the world champion jersey slowing down at the side of the road. But then … no more view on it. The TV is showing the leaders now. What’s going on there ? The reporter knocks me down. “We just got the news that Greg LeMond has punctured in the last kilometer of the climb and there is no car or teammate with him”. Oh my God !
I have the feeling being deaf and blind. There’s no news and no image of the incident. The only thing I know is he punctured and is waiting for help. A few moments later I get more desperate. “The car of the Z team is trying to get to Greg but it can’t pass the riders on the narrow road. He already lost 1 minute and is standing helpless by the side of the road looking for a teammate or team car”.
This just can’t be true. The reporter continues. “The car has arrived and 2 teammates, Simon and Boyer, are with the world champion now. He’s back on his bike and chasing but the gap is already 1m20 on Chiappucci”. In the meantime the cameras are with Greg and what I see next is the most exiting and fastest descend I’ve ever seen on television. Greg is leading the pack and taking a lot of risks. It really gives me the chicken chills. Keep it steady. Don’t crash. The gap is closing down. Still 1 minute behind and descending with an amazing speed.
His teammembers are no help for him now. They can hardly follow him. He’s taking all the risk to achieve his goal. Getting back.
Still in disbelief about what just happened the cameras are showing Kvalsvoll and Duclos-Lassalle, both riding for the Z team, waiting by the side of the road with the Z team car. Greg’s teammates are still in front of the race due to an early attack. And now they are ordered to stop and wait for their leader. But what I see next makes my stomach turn. Carrera, Chiappucci’s team, and Banesto, Delgado’s team, are in front of the leading group and setting the pace with all their riders. Even when Greg is chasing to get back a Carrera rider is screaming tot the motorcycle because he thinks he’s taking advantage of it. No solidarity, but war. I can’t understand it. I still don’t. I know exactly how Valverde must have felt in the 2013 Tour de France when he lost minutes due to a flat in the windy stage to Saint-Amand-Montrond.
In the valley Greg joins Duclos-Lassalle and Kvalsvoll and with Boyer and Simon they try to close the gap. This is a race between Z and Carrera-Banesto. The split times are good. 50 seconds, 28 seconds, … Yes, he’s coming back. But I’m angry. Angry with that little yellow Italian who forced his team and Banesto to ride. And so is Greg. I can see that on his face.
After 20 kilometers LeMond joined the leading group. What a relief. What a day … again.
The day after I buy the paper to read about this fascinating stage. I’m looking for comments of Greg, because yesterday he wasn’t able to give any reaction on TV. He was too furious. His wife, Kathy LeMond, actually said he was shouting and asking the public to give him a wheel. He was really desperate.
But today I’m reading his own comments. “That minute waiting for my car, was like an hour in my head. But what was Chiappucci thinking. There were still 70 kilometers to go. Why did he let his team start racing when I had a mechanical problem ? Was he dreaming ?”. And the day after, his comments are illustrated with a nice picture of Greg discussing with Claudio Chiappucci in the newspapers and magazines.
A few days later in the final stage to Paris it seemed everything was forgotten. But I’m sure it wasn’t.
Watch the images and comments of Greg on the new video of our Youtube Channel.
By Thierry – TM_LeMondFans