Greg LeMond: the Definitive Portrait

Greg LeMond: the Definitive Portrait

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.

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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.  

lemond (greg) - (usa) -

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.

lemond (greg) - (usa)

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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  1. Andrew

    Couldn’t agree more. I pre-ordered this on Amazon and read it the moment it arrived. The pictures alone are worth the price of the book, and the memories of LeMond from his contemporaries are fantastic. It’s the easiest holiday gift you’ll buy for yourself or the cyclists on your list.

  2. Dave King

    I am looking forward to buying this book for the photos alone. But also am very interested to hear what others have written. I’m not surprised that LeMond’s post-racing career was left out for that is probably another book entirely. Probably not unfairly, controversy has always followed LeMond both in his racing career and in his retirement.

    This is from a past essay of yours from before I followed your website.
    “As a writer and cycling fan, my opposition to LeMond pursuing Armstrong as a doper is simple. It’s simply not his job. He’s overstepping bounds in a big way and unfortunately, to many people who follow cycling, his single-mindedness about Armstrong eliminates the even-handed justice that would be on his side if he offered to work with the UCI to use his incredible knowledge to help them refine the profile for suspicious riders. In short, LeMond is not an enforcement apparatus and needs to understand that.”

    While I agree it was not LeMond’s “job” to pursue Armstrong (or anyone else) as a doper, nor was it Tyler’s, Floyd’s, Frankie’s, Betsy’s, etc. We’d still be waiting (in vain) for Armstrong’s downfall if we waited for those whose “job” it was to make this happen. I.e., the federal grand jury investigation and the USADA ruling would not have happened if those willing to speak out had sat on their hands because it wasn’t their “job.” There were others (e.g., Christophe Bassons) who also spoke out against doping when asked about it and like LeMond they didn’t actually speak out that often about it but nonetheless they paid a hefty price. But their voices were heard and I think that it’s important we as a public hear those voices (even and perhaps especially if it is not their “job”) even if we choose not to listen to them. A lot of parties had a vested interest in LeMond, Bassons, the Andreus, Landis, etc remaining on the sidelines and following the Omertà. I am thankful they did not.

    By the way, if any one wants to know what it was like to race clean in the Armstrong era, then you should read Christophe Basson’s book A Clean Break. If The Secret Race explored what it was like inside the doping machine, then A Clean Break reveals the moral courage of a man who withstood incredible pressures (peer, sporting, management, financial, etc) to dope but remained true to himself and his ideals. It is also a kind of love letter to riding and training.

    Anyway, thanks for creating a place where the writing about cycling is interesting and cannot be found anywhere else. And thanks to commentators, too, who likewise provide often provide great insights.

    1. Author

      Thanks for your considered response Dave. If I may, I’d like to offer one small rebuttal: Travis Tygart went after Lance; it was his job. As Landis put it, he wanted to “burn the whole house down.” There was a revenge element (against Armstrong) in his letter to USAC and USADA, but I think it isn’t accurate to suggest that Landis or Hamilton were out to get Armstrong. Hamilton confessed because he was subpoenaed. Same for the Andreus, and when their testimony leaked, they simply did what you or I would have done, which is to defend ourselves. There were those who singled out Armstrong as a target, and I had a problem with that. David Walsh’s “7 Deadly Sins” did a great job of explaining why he became so obsessed with Armstrong and it really helped me understand his view in a way that I hadn’t previously.

      It’s also worth noting that at that point, LeMond was losing the battle against Armstrong and it was hurting his reputation. I didn’t want to see his stock dip any further. Back when all that was real-time LeMond was Sisyphus and the crowd had no taste for tragic heroes. Simply put, I wanted him to shut up because I didn’t think he could bring about Armstrong’s downfall and I didn’t want to see his reputation destroyed in a losing battle.

  3. Dave King

    Thanks, Padraig.

    Tygart (and USADA) did indeed go after LA. But that was 11 years after LA’s positive 1999 TdF test for cortisone. USADA started operations in 2000 – that’s a long time not to be doing their job.

    I haven’t read “Seven Deadly Sins” and I realize that I should since I have read most everything else on this list. I will have to read what Walsh wrote but I’m not sure four or five interviews in 9 or 10 years casting doubt on LA (e.g., for working with Ferrari) qualifies as obsession – until Trek/LA ended his bike business which I’m sure propelled him toward obsession. By 2008 at Interbike when LA announced his return, LeMond publicly challenged – he probably felt he had nothing to lose in terms of his reputation and that LA’s fortune and reputation were build on a house of cards. The latter was an opinion I shared – the evidence, for those who cared to look, was damning. In my opinion and as someone who raced at a high domestic level in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, there were far too many people willing to look the other way. This is the point of courage: working for what you believe is right despite high personal cost while laying down arms will either preserve your place or reward you. It takes a strong ego to do take that kind of stance, IMO, something which I’m sure LeMond possesses.

    In addition, I believe the reason so many riders were willing to obey the Omertà was for the same reason you wanted to LeMond to keep quiet – to protect their reputation and their livelihood. Christophe Bassons is another who paid a high cost – not just for not doping but for proclaiming he rode clean, which his colleagues perceived as a threat. If LeMond, why not Bassons? It’s because of riders like Bassons that we know not everyone was doping and thus dispelling the self-serving myth of justification.

    LA was not LeMond’s only target – he questioned and criticized the performance/actions of others including Landis, Contador, McQuaid, Ferrari, Verbruggen. Certainly not all were racers but were all stakeholders in the doping status quo.

    It’s interesting to note that if Kayle Leogrande hadn’t left behind EPO in his fridge, Novitsky would probably never have investigated LA and the federal grand jury investigation wouldn’t have existed – making the USADA case unlikely as well.

    You really don’t think Landis was out to destroy LA? After repeatedly being denied a contract with RadioShack and sending threatening emails if they didn’t? I think if they’d given Floyd a contract he would not have written those letters – not yet, anyway. After that, yes, he wanted to “burn it all down” – I believe he was offended and angry about the hypocrisy of not being hired to race again in Europe. But I’m very doubtful that Floyd did any of this for the “good of the sport.”

    Hamilton – I agree – not out for revenge.

    Andreus – yes, they were subpoenaed in the SCA affair and I believe for grand jury testimony but I don’t believe that was why Betsy continued to speak. Like LeMond but perhaps worse, their reputations and livelihoods were destroyed. Betsy, like LeMond, was not going to go quietly.

    Thanks for the “seven deadly sins” recommendation – I will check it out!



  4. Reid_Rothschild

    LeMond is a great sportsman for his cycling exploits, and a badass/hero for speaking truth to power.

    His stock only went up with me for his oracular (greatest comeback, or greatest fraud) pronouncement.

    Mike Magnuson wrote that as great a cyclist LeMond is, he’s an even better human being. I believe that.

    The guy is a legend. He gifted a Tour to a delusional Hinault and he would have won at least 6 of the things had he not been shot.

    1. hiddenwheel

      Indeed, Lemond’s stock went up, not down, for me as he made comments like “greatest comeback or greatest fraud.” As someone that raced at a high level (but not too high) during Armstrong’s rise, it was understood by many riders that the game was dirty, but we didn’t have certainty. Neither did Lemond, but he was right to ask and keep asking and he had a platform other lacked. Nothing gets clean until its called into question. Still true.

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