By Nicolas Lelièvre
When Greg LeMond gets the 1984 season started, he’s definitely not in the same position as 12 months before. Check it out yourself, I started the 1983 season digest with these words : “In February 1983, Greg LeMond is 22. He’s not on top of the world yet but he’s working on it.”. In February 1984, Greg is literally sitting on top of the world, being the new reigning world champion. The stakes are definitely higher, and they’re about to reach stratospheric altitudes come july when Greg LeMond will enter the Tour de France for the first time. He has been programmed by the mastermind Cyrille Guimard to blossom this summer.
As you can see in our brand new timeline, Greg has a busy spring. He enters the 1 week stage races of march where he makes the top 10 every day, then proceeds to the april classics showing what his rainbow jersey is made of. You see, it’s like Spider-Man : “With great powers come great responsabilities”. Greg throws his web but misses the mark. The most frustrating race is probably Liège-Bastogne-Liège where the Renault team outnumbers the breakaway group (3 riders out of 9) but can’t prevent Sean Kelly to win that day.
Greg then heads back to the American continent to race the Colombian Clasico RCN. The idea is to profit from the high altitudes there and work on the climbing skills. Greg LeMond enjoys the yellow jersey there but soon drops back along with the non-local riders. He shares room with Laurent Fignon in Colombia and let’s just say they do not have the most productive time together.
Greg spends the most part of may at home in the US where he takes a break from the euro scene to get his motivation started again. He comes back to France just in time for the Dauphiné Libéré, his test ride for the Tour. Greg is not at his peak at the Dauphiné but his form is definitely rising with each day. He ends up winning the final time trial.
In the coming weeks before the Tour, Greg’s name appears in the shortlist for the Tour de France favorites. In fact, for many observers, Greg LeMond is the strongest rider. Hinault still carries a question mark over his name after his knee surgery the year before and although he won the Tour in 1983, Laurent Fignon is perceived as being weaker. History is capricious and proves everyone wrong. It turns out Laurent Fignon is in the shape of his life and he’s having a ball. Destroying every competition to the point of humiliating the mighty Bernard Hinault, the Parisian leaves no chance to anyone. Greg does reasonably good. In fact, he does really, really good, considering… Because the rainbow jersey is no germproof vest, Greg catches a bronchitis by the end of week 1 into the Tour. He then struggles to get back in the game, closing in on Hinault as days go by. When the peloton reaches Paris, Greg’s score is so-so. On the plus side : Greg climbs on the 3rd spot on the podium, just over a minute after Hinault and brings the white rookie jersey home, after having also worn the red jersey (for hot spots sprints). He enjoys the celebrations of his team’s victory in the Team Time trial. Not bad for a cripple. On the negative side, Greg finishes more than 10 minutes behind Fignon, which is a lot at this level, and he fails to add an 11th victory to the record breaking 10 stages wins by the Renault team.
It is indeed so-so.
During that same Tour de France, Greg receives an offer from the La Vie Claire team, Hinault’s team, to join their ranks in 1985. At first Greg is not impressed since he already is in the n°1 Tour de France team but Bernard Tapie, head of La Vie Claire and a handful of other companies, is persuasive. A bit taken aback, Greg goes back to his mentor, Renault team’s coach Cyrille Guimard. Guimard doesn’t react very well. He doesn’t like Tapie, he blames him for losing Hinault and… he does not have the same budget to offer Greg, so he feels it is not a fair game. After Fignon’s domination in the Tour, Guimard feels like he does not need to display too much energy in order to keep Greg LeMond at Renault. Not only does Guimard not meet Tapie’s offer, but his choice of words is rather… questionable. Guimard tells Greg : “If you leave this team, you will never win the Tour de France”. He doesn’t know it yet, but Guimard just unleashed LeMonster. Soon, Greg figures he can sign a spectacular contract and start sharing the leader load with a soon-in-retirement rider (Hinault) rather than a 24 year old rooster (Fignon). He signs with La Vie Claire.
The end of the season is bitter. The world championship is tarnished by a polemic with Moreno Argentin. The Italian asks Greg a bag of dollars to collaborate in a chase, which instantly leads to Greg watching his tail and stop doing any work. Both riders come back from Spain empty handed. In Italy, then, Guimard refuses to allow Greg a handful of teammates or team car to help him race. This is the end of a frustrating year.
The 1984 season was featured all year long in our “30 years ago” reports on Facebook and Twitter 2014. You can check the 1984 timeline here. Follow us to get the 1985 reports starting now.