What could bring 3 guys from all over Europe to the middle of nowhere in France’s no-man’s land : LA CREUSE ?
The answer is short : love.
Or, more accurately : sharing the love.
We’ve been fans of Greg LeMond for a long time. And for a long time it has been a lonely hobby. So much so that we sometimes thought there could not possibly be other people as involved in this as we were. Well, we were wrong.
Last week-end, combining close to 2 000 km on the European highways, we 3 : Albert, Thierry & Nicolas, ended up in what seemed, at first, a place filled with wild animals and hardly any sign of human life. Albert came from the south and encountered deer and foxes. Thierry & I met in Paris and arrived from the north. We were welcomed by foxes too (included the cutest fox puppy you could imagine), rabbits, a frog, a squirrel, a ferret and… Bernard Hinault. At least that’s what we thought when a massive badger started running desperately before our car. As a reflex we started supporting it by shouting “Allez Hi-nault ! Allez Hi-nault !” but soon we realized the poor beast was just running for its life.
We eventually found our way to our cabin by the lake. Our first meeting was very quiet : it was 1 o’clock in the morning and we were all exhausted by the road. We exchanged gifts and handshakes. Pretty soon, snoring was involved.
After having swallowed our morning croissants, we went for a reconnaissance ride. Weather was absolutely perfect : sun but reasonable heat, not much wind. I’ll say this. The lake is spectacular. We went looking for those places we had seen on TV : the finish line, the bridge in Auphelle, the fountain at Faux la Montagne. It was all there. As were the climbs : it was not an easy road by any means. 700m of positive altitude in just 46km. A long but fairly easy climb to Royère, then the steep ramps after Nedde. The casual ride made us hesitate about testing ourselves in ITT mode. Could we make this in less than 2 hours ?
In the afternoon, we followed Thierry’s advice and went back to Faux la Montagne where we tried to capture the exact same picture as the famous 1990 Campagnolo ad poster.
I have to say I was reluctant to do it at first but it was MASSIVE fun. It was also the most entertaining event the little town saw in a good while as 3 strange people spent 2 hours riding around the fountain dressed up as vintage over-weighted and/or under-trained vintage cyclists. I just couldn’t stop smiling.
The rest of the day consisted in finding food (not that easy but Eymoutiers ended up being a very cool picnic spot), resting and talking. Talking A LOT. Guess what we talked about ? Everything Greg LeMond, of course but not just that. Turns out we all have a whole lot more in common : age, values, weird sense of humor… BBQ & French wine lead us to playing a cycling board game by the lake sunset. Perfect.
The following day started with a (minor) hangover. It was hard to get anything started, really. We went by the road where the riders of “La Limousine” were racing by in small pelotons. This is where Thierry found the perfect spot for our “Hall of Fame” : every Greg LeMond jersey in our collection, side by side. It was a unique occasion to put them all together. We realized how lucky we are with what we managed to track down and acquire so far.
Putting our jerseys back in the bag, Thierry (him again !) took us to The Greg LeMond sign : it appears we had rented a place right were it was decided to pay tribute to our man Greg.
We decided to pose with the 3 jerseys linked to the Lac de Vassivière : the combine jersey worn by Greg in the 1985 ITT, the world champion jersey worn by Greg in the 1990 ITT and the yellow jersey he won at the end of that day.
In the afternoon, we went for the fun ride : taking pictures and videos. We had a blast. Wearing all Greg LeMond kits & glasses, we shot each other riding, having a go at multi-cam settings… That was excellent. We did the ride along the seashores and melted on the asphalt as the sun was trying to hammer us. We went for a swim in the lake as a recovery and got rewarded with the coldest waters. We swam anyway. And got eaten alive by bugs as we took a sunbath afterwards. Totally worth it.
After the traditional pasta dinner and a good night’s rest we faced our destiny : the final time trial. Each of us had different goals as we trained our separate ways. Thierry was coming back to his former self after 2 years away from the bike and was aiming for perfection, as he always does. Albert opted for the short ride as he had to leave early. I just wanted to do what Greg did. I was secretly targeting the 1h50’ mark.
It was rough but we made a good move by going very early as the sun was already strong. Farewells were short, and we were set against the clock one last time. Climbs came and went, making it hard to find the right pace. It was hard to concentrate too as soon all we were thinking about was “not again ?!?”.
I’m happy to report that we all reached our goals : Albert did a 26,7 km/h average on the short ride. Thierry destroyed all opposition with a 1h44’ time (over the ITT course) and a 27,3 km/h average. He came back all sweaty and smiling. As for I, I eventually did the ITT in 1h48’ after all. A satisfying 26 km/h average even though the Nedde hills just felt like survival.
Moreover, our TRUE goals were reached : it was the first time the 3 of us got to meet and, as expected, we just had the best time ever, ON the bike and OFF the bike.
We wish this experience is an inspiration for all followers, as Greg LeMond’s rides were an inspiration for us. It is all about sharing the love.
Albert, Nicolas and Thierry