Cycling has often been a remedy in Greg LeMond’s life. A way to channel his hyperactive energy, to gain self-esteem, to escape childhood trauma, to reinvent himself.
On a sunny mid-July afternoon, more mundanely, it’s the answer to transatlantic jet lag. Even with the time difference and grass allergies trying to close them, his eyes – as blue as the adjacent Lake Leman – still light up when he gets on the bike. LeMond is on the French-Swiss border for work and pleasure – he is the patron of their Châtel Chablais Léman sportive and unwinding with his old friend Patrick, which means a few gourmet dinners and fly fishing trips.
They pedal to a car dealership, one of the ride’s partners, to meet waiting workers and fans. There are two dozen aficionados, some toting mobile phones, woollen Renault jerseys and old photographs to sign. A holidaying Toronto family is there in homemade Team Z T-shirts; another punter drove 1,000 kilometres from Normandy, leaving at three in the morning.
They are magnetised to LeMond and, far from many champions who develop a not-totally-there autopilot for public dealings, the American seems genuinely interested to meet and talk to them too despite the strangeness of being feted for youthful feats: “It seems weird. I’m like an antique! I kind of go, what’s the big deal?”
Greg LeMond is a big deal, a revolutionary champion and one-off who went against the grain: in his drive for technological gain, in pushing back against the traditionalism of the sport – nutrition, performance, salary demands, even the mere presence of his family at bike races – and in being outspoken about doping.
His bike racing career, which most notably led to three Tours de France and two elite world championships, was wild and drama-filled enough. Remarkably, that was perhaps the straightforward bit of his life.
He has also endured sexual abuse, mononucleosis, depression and a life-threatening shooting. Now, LeMond is back on the up after a draining decade of clashes and litigation with the likes of Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis and Trek.
“It’s been very trying. I’m amazed, I’ve been through some shit that most people can’t survive. But we’re here and we’re good. Life is never perfect, but it’s shaped me in a positive way too,” he says.
The Cycling Hall of Fame 2019: The case for Greg LeMond
When it would have been easy to close himself off or fall out of love with cycling, LeMond remains open, principled, passionate and curious to understand the world around him and himself – as you’ll see in the pages of Rouleur this October, with our exclusive interview, and in person at the Rouleur Classic.