The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France

The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France

by Daniel de Vise

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Overview

The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France by Daniel de Vise

In July 1986, Greg LeMond stunned the sporting world by becoming the first American to win the Tour de France, the world’s pre-eminent bicycle race, defeating French cycling legend Bernard Hinault. Nine months later, LeMond lay in a hospital bed, his life in peril after a hunting accident, his career as a bicycle racer seemingly over. And yet, barely two years after this crisis, LeMond mounted a comeback almost without parallel in professional sports. In summer 1989, he again won the Tour—arguably the world’s most grueling athletic contest—by the almost impossibly narrow margin of 8 seconds over another French legend, Laurent Fignon. It remains the closest Tour de France in history.



The Comeback chronicles the life of one of America’s greatest athletes, from his roots in Nevada and California to the heights of global fame, to a falling out with his own family and a calamitous confrontation with Lance Armstrong over allegations the latter was doping—a campaign LeMond would wage on principle for more than a decade before Armstrong was finally stripped of his own Tour titles. With the kind of narrative drive that propels books like Moneyball, and a fierce attention to detail, Daniel de Visé reveals the dramatic, ultra-competitive inner world of a sport rarely glimpsed up close, and builds a compelling case for LeMond as its great American hero.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802127945
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 06/05/2018
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 75,178
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Daniel de Visé is an author and journalist. A graduate of Wesleyan and Northwestern universities, he has worked at the Washington Post and Miami Herald, among other newspapers. He shared a 2001 Pulitzer Prize and has garnered more than two dozen national and regional journalism awards. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show and coauthor of I Forgot To Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia. He lives in Maryland with his wife and children.

Read an Excerpt

On a small patch of unoccupied blacktop in a crowded plaza near the grand palace of Versailles, two riders pedaled bicycles in a warm-up exercise around a tiny oval, riding counterclockwise at opposite poles, like horses on a carousel. Their eyes never met. The two figures were almost mirror images—blond-haired, muscular and taut. After twenty days and three thousand kilometers of racing, Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon were fifty seconds apart in the standings of the 1989 Tour de France. They had traded savage attacks over the three previous weeks, neither man ever leading the other by more than mere seconds. The lead had changed hands three times. Greg had worn the maillot jaune, the race leader’s yellow jersey, for seven days; Laurent had worn it for nine. Now, the jersey hung on Laurent’s back. Greg sat in second place. By day’s end, the Tour would be decided. And no matter who won, this would likely be the closest finish in the seventy-six-year history of le Tour.



On this July afternoon, the circling cyclists readied for a final twenty-five-kilometer dash downhill from the royal château to the finish line on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. This was the time trial, cycling’s Race of Truth, in French the contre la montre—literally, “against the watch.” Savvy observers had surveyed the course and reckoned a middling rider could complete it in about twenty-nine minutes. A great one might win it in twenty-eight. Greg needed to reclaim those fifty seconds from his French rival on this final day of racing, to pull back two seconds for every kilometer raced, in order to win the Tour.



Both Greg and Laurent were men of twenty-eight—young adults in the broad scheme of life, yet aging journeymen in the brief and brutal career of cycling. Each had conquered le Tour before, Laurent in 1983 and 1984, Greg in 1986, each, in turn, enjoying a brief reign atop the precarious pecking order of professional cycling. Then each cyclist had abruptly lost his “form,” a term invoked by cycling writers to describe a rider at his peak. Both had dwelt for years in cycling’s wilderness, missing races, abandoning them, or finishing at the back of the pack. Now, at the signature event of the 1989 cycling season, each man had miraculously recovered his form. Greg and Laurent were back on top—both of them, at exactly the same time, a most inconvenient coincidence. Neither knew how long the second wind might last. If there was to be another victory at the Tour for either of them, the time was now.



As the clock wound down to Greg’s 4:12 p.m. start, television commentators interviewed cycling experts and one another, all asking the same question: Could LeMond catch Fignon?



“It will be close,” predicted Paul Sherwen, a former professional cyclist turned broadcaster, speaking on the live ITV transmission in Britain. “But I think, logically, it’s got to be Fignon.”

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

The Gift 5

The Wheelmen 15

LeMonster 20

The Pilgrimage 32

Le Parisien 50

L'Américain 62

Le Tour 85

Le Grand Blond 91

The Deal 118

The Betrayal 133

Twenty Minutes 150

The Comeback 172

The Battle 188

Eight Seconds 211

The Sequel 224

The Decline 238

The Texan 263

The Feud 285

The Last Breath 299

Amends 311

Author's Note 329

Photo Credits 337

Notes 339

Index 361

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