Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Revenge of Greg LeMond: Tour de France, 1986.

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.


Country Fuckin' said...

Good post. I've been talking all day with folks Landis and how/if cycling is going to move forward... Will they create two pro divisions- doped and clean? Can it ever truly be transparent? Eventually, our discussion came back to Lemond

JP said...

i was watching the same lemond testimony clip yesterday.

EVERYONE DOPES...or so ive learned. hate to burst everyone's hopes but its true. landis shouldve done his 2 years and come back like vino, basso, millar, and all the others. instead he lied and lied and named names...he's the worst.

the rumor is that he wanted his new team to be in the tour of california...the organizers said no. landis said if they werent in it, he'd do a tell all...hence yesterday.

the giro this year is 10x better than the tour of california if you havent been watching.

Anonymous said...

Nice Blog. Doping was around for a long time in Cycling. It started with sponsorship and commercialization. Money and greed is synonymous with the sport. Cyclist have to perform for their bosses, the sponsors, who want to sell as much of their product to the masses. As a cyclist, I am enjoying the sport as is. Its a romantic ideal, I guess. I ride to enjoy myself and the surroundings. Thanks!

Secret Service said...

1986. Best tour ever. Would love LeMond to sit back and allow fans to appreciate his feats a little more, but he'll always be my American favorite. And Liggett, Shermen and Bobke are amazing. Time trial in LA today...should be fun.

zissou said...

'86 was indeed a great tour, but I've lost much respect for LeMond over the years. He always makes a point to tear down any American winner since himself, often with pure speculation. Sure, he was right about Landis (for whom I have no respect at all), but if everyone does indeed dope, then maybe he's the pot calling the kettle black?