Posts Tagged ‘Tour de France’

The story of the first American winner

July 8, 2010

Greg LeMond during pre-helmet days on the Tour de France.

Allow me a little latitude the next few weeks, as I go off The Circle and into the world of cycling.

Lost in all the hype of the current Tour de France riders is the first American to win the Tour.

Greg LeMond won the Tour in 1986, 1989 and 1990, as well as finishing second in 1985 and third in 1984. LeMond was like a sharp stick in the eye to the European racers who had dominated the Tour since it started in 1903.

At the top of his career, and two months before the start of the 1987 Tour, LeMond was injured in a turkey hunting accident. It took him two years to recover, but he was on the starting line for the 1989 Tour with 37 shotgun pellets still in his body.

That Tour would end up being one for the record books that is still debated in cycling circles to this day. In the closest finish in Tour history, LeMond won on the final stage into Paris with an 8-second margin.

Legendary French rider Laurent Fignon was all but assured victory with a 58-second lead heading into the final stage – a time trial.

LeMond, pellets and all, rode the second fastest time trial in Tour history to gain 58 seconds on Fignon, who finished second. It was one of the most heroic comebacks in sport; that was until another American, Lance Armstrong, came back from near-fatal cancer to win seven Tours.

It was the last time a time trial was used on the final stage.

In 1992, LeMond became the first American to win the short-lived Tour DuPont. He officially retired in 1994 and now runs LeMond Fitness, a company specializing in indoor bikes and trainers.

Since his retirement, he has had a love-hate relationship with cycling. He had a lucrative deal with Trek Bikes that ended up in court. He has accused Armstrong of sabotaging his deal with the company.

He has also accused Armstrong, and most other Tour winners, with doping. In the small world of elite cyclists, LeMond has severed all ties because of his comments over the years.

There is no doubt Greg LeMond should be doing color commentary for Tour de France coverage on American television. He is among a rare few in the country who really understands the Tour and its history. Instead, one of his former teammates, Bob Roll, has made a name for himself providing insights to the event during daily coverage on the Versus cable network.

It’s sad that LeMond’s outspoken ways keep him in the shadows of an international sport he brought home to the United States.

TOUR TIDBITS . . . . ..

Either a U.S. or Spanish rider has won the Tour 20 of the last 24 years.

The last French rider to wear yellow in Paris was the legendary Laurent Fignon, who won in 1985. French riders have won 36 races, which is more than twice the number of riders from any other country.

Lance Armstrong holds the record with seven wins wearing the yellow from 1999-2005.

The 97th Tour is made up of 20 stages between July 3 and July 25 covering 2,221 miles.

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