“For as long as I can recall, I’ve always been riding with Greg LeMond in mind.”
Many moons ago, when I started the 6 months of hard work that would eventually lead to www.greglemondfan.com , THIS is the first thing I wrote.
What does it mean ?
When I was a kid, I was pretending I was someone else. Child’s play, you know. When playing Star Wars with my friends, I was Han Solo. When I started playing the guitar, I was The Edge. When I was on my bike, I was Greg LeMond. It’s as simple as that. From what I was wearing to how I stood on the bike. I was trying to roll my shoulders like he did. I took the habit of having a pause when I go from the “danseuse” position to sitting on the saddle. Because Greg did. I can vividly remember french TV consultant Robert Chapatte mentioning this during the last ITT stage of the 1984 Tour de France. Greg was wearing a white jersey ITT skinsuit with a yellow cap turned backwards. He started climbing, his upper body up, handling the brake levers while he was throwing his bike from left to right and left again. “La danseuse”. The dancer. Then Greg promptly came back sitting on the saddle. And as he was doing that, he stopped turning his legs for a second. Just a second. Chapatte described it as a way to rest for a moment before hammering the pedals again. I thought that was cool. So I learned to do it too.
When I was a teenager it evolved in pretending I was in a race, doing like Greg did. I wasn’t Greg anymore. Sometimes I was in his team doing some work for him or whatever… It was an excuse to push harder. And it worked.
Nowadays, riding with Greg in mind has more to do with apparel : jerseys, sunglasses… to the very bike I ride(one of my bikes is a 1993 Gan Team LeMond bike replica with the Scott drop-in handlebars).
Sometimes, if I’m very lucky, I’ll go for a pilgrimage. Tourmalet, Luz-Ardiden, Superbagnères… Vassivière like we did last june (read about it here) up to the Champs Elysées !
But when we had the chance to meet Greg in Belgium in 2012, one thing I couldn’t have dreamed of became a possibility. Why not actually ride with Greg ?!? He was so vocal about riding in Europe and coming back with his bike so… Why the hell not ?
Fast forward to 2014. Greg is doing a live chat on Eurosport. He’ll be doing the whole Tour de France for them. Albert & I see an opportunity. We will both be on vacation not too far from the july 21st rest day in Carcassonne. When the chat begins, we dare to ask for Greg to join us in a casual ride there. We try not to hope for too much as we are aware our question might not be picked up by Greg. But pretty soon during the chat, not only our question pops up but Greg agrees to it ! I have to pinch myself. We have a date.
During the period before july 21st, our excitement grows and we prepare for the trip. Thierry feels hopeless behind his computer. He has to remain in Belgium to work. No way to escape it. We will have to keep him updated with phone messages. The man is dying.
Albert is anxious. This will be his first meeting ever with Greg LeMond. He’s never had the chance to go anywhere near the man in Z. Coming from Spain, Albert is nervous about getting lost in the Castelnaudary countryside between a vineyard and a sunflower field.
I’m supposed to be cool. I’ve met Greg a few times now and I’ve ridden with him on 2 occasions. But this one is different. This time is actually scheduled. Expectations are higher. I rode with Greg in Megève in 2013 for the Time-Megève-Mont Blanc “cyclosportive”. Greg & his team mate Patrick were awesomely kind but Greg was just recovering from a car accident and was not in a good shape. There were also 800 riders which made it far from being “intimate”. Last april Thierry & I were heading for the Paris-Roubaix cobblestones when we met Greg and offered him to come and join us. He agreed right on the spot ! That was so unexpected and wild that I am still having a hard time believing it was true.
I do my best to train in spite of the terrible weather. I know Greg’s riding daily on the Tour so I want to do good. I’m still carrying 10kg too many when I reach Carcassonne. So, when Albert, my brother & I arrive in the hilly southern France where we are supposed to meet… I can’t wait to get on the bike so that all the tension goes into the legs ! Kathy greets us in the most friendly way. We meet Dave from http://www.cyclingtips.com.au , an avid Greg LeMond fan who’ll join us for the ride. Scott LeMond, Greg’s son, is there too, always amused by the fuzz his father is causing. When Greg & the faithful Patrick come out, we’re good to go.
Or are we ? First things first : the first meeting between Greg & Albert is quite emotional. Greg gets a free hug. So does Albert. Then I have to give a hand to Greg. It seems he doesn’t have a foot pump. Proudest moment of my life, lifting the pump lever for the big man.
Greg is testing his new bike, the recently introduced steel machine “Washoe”. Orange is the dress code of the day. Off we go. For a little more than an hour, we will wander around the area in between storms. The atmosphere is very relaxed, Greg is as chatty as ever. We have to stop every 10 minutes, as it seems Greg is having trouble with the Shimano Di2. My brother Eric takes the bike in charge, being the Di2 expert. Verdict : chain is too short.
And then it happens… We are in the middle of a sunflower field with dark & heavy clouds over our heads. I’m right behind Greg. We start climbing a little. Greg grabs the brake levers, gets up on the pedals without accelerating, throwing his bike from left to right and left again. “La danseuse”. As he comes back sitting on the saddle, Greg stops turning the legs. Just for a second. I’m riding with Greg LeMond.
The same thing happens later in a descent. I instantly recognize the biker-like way of throwing his knees on the side when turning at high speed. We’re having fun. Suddenly, I go “uh-ooh” when Greg goes wide after a bend on the right and misses a turn. After the initial shock of imagining the headlines “Former Tour de France hero pushed over a cliff by dumb fan”, I tease Greg a little bit : “You’re a terrible ad for a helmet”, I say. “I forgot it” is his reply. Then I realize Scott is wearing a POC helmet, which design is… May I say “questionable” ? But wait, who am I kidding ? I’m wearing the Oakley Eyeshades myself ! Talk about questionable design… Taste is the enemy of art.
We come back where we started and this is the end of the ride. My brother & I have this “remember when we were kids ?” expression on our faces. Albert looks like he’s still a kid, actually, his smile going from one ear to the other. We made it. Not only did we make it but the casual way it all happened was, for us, more than perfect. Greg has an ability to treat his fans as equals, in a very humble and natural way. That’s admirable.
After a quick shower, we unpack the few gifts we have for Greg. Among them, those two t-shirts designed by Thierry. You might recognize them. The first is the same t-shirt we used for our Vassivère pilgrimage. The second is a replica of the “best rookie” white jersey Greg won 30 years ago for his first Tour de France. You can tell Greg’s having fun.
We have fun too with Greg’s Eurosport car…
I’m not sure I’ll ever ride with Greg LeMond again and that’s ok. But if I do… Greg, I challenge you for a sprint. I want to see that speed machine again too. In this time of ice buckets and stuff, a sprint should be easy for you.
Thanks to Dave, for not yelling at us when we walked into frame and ruined his shot. Sorry, mate. You can check the interviews Greg did with Dave here and here. Thanks to Thierry for not blowing up with frustration and supporting us all along. Thanks to my brother Eric for sharing the food and shelter, and for a life of riding our bikes together. But above all, we want to thank the LeMonds for treating us as friends. That was a dream.
Nicolas – @NL_LeMondFans