VeloPress has just released a new book entitled, “Greg LeMond: Yellow Jersey Racer,” by Guy Andrews. It’s an apt title, one that captures the rider’s peculiar talent. It’s also direct evidence of a crime. Yes, a crime. How is it that the first real retrospective of LeMond’s career is being published in 2016, some 25 years after he last wore the yellow jersey? How was this book not out by 1995? Well, leave it to Andrews to get the story, and get the story right.
There’s nothing in this book that couldn’t have been published back then. It’s a simple volume in its scope; it is a recounting of his career as a racer. In doing so, it starts with what was important and finishes with what was important. LeMond will be best remembered not as the owner of a brand of bicycles, but as the first American to win the Tour de France, and one of the only racers to win the Tour three times. It’s a rare achievement, on the order of walking on the moon.
For English-speaking fans, the book recounts many episodes that we devoured through VeloNews, the New York Times and, because we were patient enough, Winning. However, many of the images will be new to you. It’s those new images, moments in time we haven’t already committed to memory, that make his career present-tense once again. That surge of admiration and hope is heady, even after all these years.
What the book doesn’t do is delve into any of LeMond’s post-racing career. It wisely avoids the conflict with Armstrong, the blowout with Trek, the Will Geoghan/Floyd Landis debacle. Not that any of those were uninteresting, but they were each tragic episodes that did nothing to further LeMond’s standing in cycling. This book does nothing but burnish his star, and it’s a polish that both he as a rider and we as fans have deserved for 20 years.
While some efforts come too little, too late, this isn’t one. The book’s most charming quality, what gives the look back real poignancy are the interviews with his contemporaries—the one with Ron Kiefel is particularly insightful. They are moments when you get to see him through his competitors’ eyes. They saw things in him that we could never gather through a television screen.
There’s also a terrific retrospective of many of the bikes LeMond raced, going back to a Cinelli he owned in 1974. Gear junkies will love the book for this alone.
Andrews deserves praise for treating LeMond with the reverence with which Americans regarded him at the top of his career. LeMond hasn’t always been treated with respect in the media—hell, I’ve been critical—and this one time, he deserves a flattering spotlight on the stage. The book is a whopping 304 pages, hardbound-only, with a color image inset on the cover and goes for $45. I’d have paid $100 for it.
The wait for someone to write this book was obscene, but now that it’s here, dare I say, it’s the only book on LeMond we will need.
I’ve been showing my eldest son shots of LeMond from early in his career and talking about my love for bike racing. It’s been an unusual point of bonding, not the typical bedtime tale. It’s the sort of book I’m hoping both my sons will pull from my bookshelf one day, for the lessons in it say more about life than racing.
Images: Offside/l’Equipe courtsey VeloPress
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