To be honest, I stopped caring after Floyd Landis. After his epic collapse during stage 16 in the 2006 Tour. After his even more epic ride the following day in stage 17. Larger than epic. It was a resurrection. And it was f*cking thrilling. And as in any worthy tale of redemption, the underdog comes back to beat the most insurmountable of odds. And in the audience, there's what's called the willful suspension of disbelief. And then it turned into a circus. There was the, uh, "whiskey defense". There was a thyroid condition and cortisone shots for chronic hip pain. Disbelief eventually drops the prefix. Pereiro's named winner. Four years later, Contador's won it twice, and someone else once, but honestly, I just had to look that up.
And it continues to unfold. Just in the past day or so, Landis has now admitted to doping since 2002. And he's decided to rat out a few of his former teammates and competitors. To clear his conscious. But this is about LeMond. And 1986.
There's the tale of the last Amercican to "win" the Tour. And there's also the story of the first American to win. And their own stories intertwine. LeMond's outspokenness on the subject of doping. Calls between Landis, his manager and LeMond. Bad blood, intimidation tactics and court testimony.
But in 1986, there was a different controversy, one between a twenty-five year old LeMond and his older teammate, Bernard Hinault.
While the year before, LeMond rode in support of Hinault, holding back even, to give Hinault his fifth win and a second place finish for himself.
1986 would be a different story. Although having stated to be riding in support of LeMond, Hinault had amassed a five minute lead over his teammate by the end of stage 12. Feeling the sting of betrayal and with the aid of a rookie teammate Andy Hampsten(who would later lead the famous 7-11 team), LeMond would take stage 13.
He would then take the yellow jersey three stages later.
And eventually, the first American win in the Tour's then eighty-three year history(less the war years).
This is when I watched the Tour religiously and as a young fan. (Phil Liggett's commentary career is like a fine wine at this point)
So, July approaches. And granted, it's no small feat what these guys do, doped or not. I'd like to think that most aren't. But really, who cares at this point. For all the major steps the UCI has taken, for all of the transparency in team's training and testing policies, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."
And certainly Landis did that, for a few years, until yesterday.
It's a nice time to look back, to when some kid from Reno was the first American to win the Tour. And maybe, just maybe, start to look forward to it again.