Friday, February 23, 2007

Greg LeMond: Coming Full Circle

Palo Alto Bikes: Sam, Greg and Henri - Feb. 21, 2007

Greg LeMond inspired me to become a bicyclist in the late 1980s. Like most Midwesterners, I only saw Greg on Famous Cycling videos or through the pages of VeloNews. The historic Graham Watson photographs were etched in my mind, and his incredible final time trial in the 1989 Tour de France catapulted him from a famous pro cyclist in Europe to mainstream superstar.

You could say my good friend Steve Smith introduced me to Greg in late 1988. We were both working at Johnson Hill Press in Fort Atkinson, WI, and Steve's curious collection of wool jerseys and racing posters intrigued me. Stephen Roche was that year's world road champion, Andy Hampsten had won the Giro d'Italia in May, and LeMond was still recovering from an accidental gunshot wound the previous April. Bicycle Guide, Winning, and VeloNews were my main source of knowledge, and the pure joy of discovering bicycling at age 22 was enough to supplant my recent retirement from competitive soccer.

Fast forward to August 1995; LeMond had just announced Trek's acquisition of the LeMond Bicycle Company, and Trek's Dean Gore contacted me to write the first LeMond catalog. "Would you be able to visit Greg at his home in Medina, MN and draft a catalog by mid September?" Dean asked. The timing was perfect. I was scheduled to race in the 24 Hours of Buck, just 25 minutes away from Greg's home.

While endurance events have never been my strong suit, I did relish the idea of getting in some saddle time with friends, then going to Greg LeMond's home on official business. All the trophies, jerseys and medals I saw on video and in print were there before my own eyes in the LeMond home that Sunday afternoon in 1995, and Greg was kind enough to share his time with me.

Of course, many people wanted to spend time with Greg over the years. His charismatic nature and approachability made it easy, but it wasn't until a few days ago that I got my chance to reconnect with Greg, this time in Palo Alto, CA.

LeMond's new Tete de Course model - "head of the field."

LeMond was in town to promote his line of bicycles, share racing stories, and talk about his honorary chairmanship for the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure. His middle son Scott, whom I met when he was a chubby 8-year-old, joined him at PAB. Now 19 and a recent cycling convert (like his older brother Geoff), Scott sat patiently on the sidelines while his dad regaled the capacity crowd at Palo Alto Bikes. One of Greg's first sponsors in the mid 1970s was Avocet, owned by Bud and Neal Hoffacker, also owners of PAB.

LeMond signing Henri's yellow Campy cap.

After speaking for 90 minutes, LeMond spent another 90 minutes-plus signing autographs, shaking hands with old friends, and giving of his time. A major highlight for me was seeing Greg spend time talking with my kids about sports, art, architecture and bicycling. His steely blue eyes and familiar smile made me and my family feel right at home, and we're grateful for opportunities like these to spend time with guys like Greg.


Blogger Yokota Fritz said...

Wow, I didn't know LeMond was at PA Cycles last week.

Good to see you posting again, Gary.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Hjalti said...

Welcome back!

8:58 AM  

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