Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Greg LeMond receives Congressional Gold Medal

 Congratulations CHAMP!

This news reminded Zio Lorenzo that he never followed up THIS post from awhile back. Here's the rest of that story:

After our great interview at the 1989 Giro, where LeMond had some encouragement with a second placing in the final chrono stage in Florence we hoped he'd a) show up at the Tour a few weeks later and b) be willing to indulge us as promised with some interviews.

To this end our boss at the tour company even flew over some Mexican food items in his luggage, knowing "The Champ's" fondness for them. He figured handing them over was the perfect excuse to remind Greg that we had a group there and were excited to see him do well...and of course grant us some time to speak with our group.

The chase began with handing over the goodies and trying to find a time and place that would work for LeMond. These were days long before team buses, in fact the place we finally caught up with LeMond was some sort of school where the riders were put up for the night in a huge dormitory.

Yep, you read that right - some of the biggest stars in the sport had to share quarters with the rest of the peloton! We got there early to stake out our spot and wait for LeMond to arrive, taking a look around in the vast room where beds were set up, imagining 100+ tired pro cyclists snoring away all night. They even had those huge, round "sinks" where 20 people could gather round and wash their hands all at the same time! A lot of the glamor of being a pro cyclist at that time drained away after seeing this.

We waited outside as other team cars arrived with the riders inside to set things up for massages, bike servicing, dinner, etc. LeMond, as one of the protagonists (I can't remember if he was in the yellow jersey on this day or not) was certainly going to be one of the last to arrive after media interviews, etc.

So we waited...and waited. We had staff members staged around to watch for his arrival and let our group know, just-in-case Greg decided to sneak onto the grounds from a different entrance. We'd been promised an interview and we were going to get one!

Other ADR team vehicles arrived but none of 'em had Greg inside. Our guests began to mill around, distracted by the arrival of other teams but we tried to corral them, not wanting "The Champ" to show up and have to wait, the boss wanted to usher him right over to our waiting group the minute he climbed out of the team car.

When the moment arrived, the look on LeMond's tired face was not encouraging but he brightened up quickly as the Americans started shouting his name. The boss led him over to the waiting group where he sat down on the grass in front of us and started talking.

Just like back in Italy, he talked and talked. Various other fans would come over but not understanding enough English would soon wander off. Finally an ADR staffer showed up and almost dragged LeMond away to his massage, etc. as our group applauded. A future interview was agreed upon quickly and the details worked out, so off we went.

The final week of LeTour had our interview set up at the team hotel near Aix Les Bains but some late arriving clients delayed our arrival so long that LeMond was already going to dinner by the time we arrived.

"The Champ" seemed almost as sad about this as we were but suggested we try again - "What about the last day?" he asked. "There's a time trial starting in Versailles. We could do it there before I start."

Yep, a guy battling to win LeTour was willing to spend time with us before what was the most important time-trial stage of his racing career. With no money changing hands. The boss said we'd get back to him before we went out to explain to our group that we'd arrived too late but were trying to reschedule, despite already thinking that getting the entire group out to Versailles from our lodging near the Champs Elysees would be impossible.

There was some private talk amongst the staff of sneaking out there on the day, but we knew that wouldn't be fair, so the idea was dropped. Instead we took a train out there just to congratulate LeMond on his fine effort, figuring he had zero chance of making up the time gap to overcome Laurent Fignon in the yellow jersey.

We went back to our hotel in Paris and later out onto the Champs Elysees to see history being made with LeMond putting in an amazing performance to win LeTour 1989.

Thanks Greg!

No comments:

Post a Comment