Wednesday, July 24, 2019

30 Years ago at LeTour

This is a story not too many know about as less than a dozen folks (including Greg LeMond) were there.

American cycling fans well know about LeMond's famous Tour de France win 30 years ago this month.

Earlier that same year LeMond was "racing" at the Giro d'Italia. After Andy Hampsten's surprise victory there in 1988 the tour company we worked with set up a race-chasing vacation for the 1989 Corsa Rosa.

Heather was hired as translator for this adventure but none of the boss' rider interview favorites were available. He usually paid guys like Ron Kiefel or Davis Phinney to do an interview with Q and A at the end for his tour groups.

But Greg LeMond WAS here! Why not him? We approached his soigneur and friend Otto Jacome to ask if Greg might be willing to meet our small group one evening after a stage? Otto said he'd talk with "The Champ" and a few days later we had an agreement to meet LeMond.

Despite being the 1983 World Champion as well as winner of the 1986 Tour de France, not everyone on this tour was excited about the prospect of meeting LeMond. This made no sense to us but it seemed some had written Greg off as a has-been. We explained the details and understood if they didn't want to go, but WE were going!

We arrived at LeMond's team hotel at the agreed upon time with LeMond coming down to the hotel lobby, fresh from a massage. He flashed a bright smile at the thought of (mostly) American cycling fans coming to the Giro and wanting to meet him.

Once LeMond starts talking, it's hard to stop him! He shared tales of all phases of his career and answered every question, no matter how banal but way-too-soon it was time for his dinner. 

As the guests filed out after handshakes and wellwishes (and relishing the thought of telling those who didn't join us what they'd missed) the boss asked LeMond about the upcoming Tour. Would he be willing to do some interviews there as well?

LeMond's response was "The Tour? Sure! If I'm in it!?" as his form, though improving, was far from optimal at this point.

The boss was used to paying the other Americans $500 per interview. When asked his price, LeMond quickly responded with "1500" which instantly created a frown on the boss' face.

The boss countered with "How 'bout $1000?" but LeMond held firm. "Fifteen-hundred" he said. "Lire, you can buy me a coffee!" breaking into that broad smile we've seen so often.

An espresso at that time in Italy was around 1000 lire, about 50 cents! LeMond said if we were going to bring American cycling fans to cheer for him in France, if he was in the race he wouldn't charge a dime!

Handshakes sealed the deal...we hoped.

LeMond went on to finish second in the Giro's final time-trial while Fignon took home the Maglia Rosa, a sign of things to come?

But yes, LeMond came through at LeTour, a story for next time.

No comments:

Post a Comment