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Soooo nice Tom. Thanks for sharing. What an honor.
On Dec 11, 2020, at 11:48 AM, Jon Ogden via groups.io <jogden@...> wrote:
On Dec 11, 2020, at 11:41 AM, Tom Snitzer <snitzoid@...> wrote:
Congress Makes It Official: Greg LeMond Is Golden
A rare honor is bestowed on the American cycling legend, reasserting his legacy in the sport.
American Greg LeMond, left, battles France's Bernard Hinault on his way to winning the 1986 Tour de France. LeMond has been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. LIONEL CIRONNEAU/ASSOCIATED PRESS
By Jason Gay
Dec. 10, 2020 8:34 am ET
Greg LeMond can’t quite believe it.
“I keep going, ‘Why me?’” the three-time Tour de France winner told me earlier this week.
On Dec. 4, President Trump signed a bill to award the 59-year-old LeMond the Congressional Gold Medal, an honor that required the approval of both the House and Senate and is considered the highest civilian award Congress can bestow. Past recipients include Thomas Edison, Charles Lindbergh and Rosa Parks. The brief list of athlete recipients is similarly iconic, with names like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson and Arnold Palmer.
Now the group includes LeMond, the Nevada-raised cyclist who captivated the sport in the 1980s, becoming the first American to win the Tour de France in 1986 and then recovering from a near-fatal hunting accident to win two more Tours in 1989 and 1990.
“I don’t even know what to say,” LeMond said. “It’s humbling to even be considered.”
“I always think that something like this is for people who are saving lives, or inventing cures for new diseases,” he continued. “I’m really honored, but at the same time, I don’t take getting awards really well. I always feel like there’s other deserving people.”
LeMond’s medal is two years in the making. It began with Rep. Mike Thompson, a California Democrat and amateur cyclist who had watched LeMond compete in a Sacramento race decades ago, and grew reinspired after reading Daniel de Visé’s 2018 book, “The Comeback,” which chronicled LeMond’s ascension to cycling’s summit and his recovery from the harrowing 1987 incident in which he was accidentally shot while turkey hunting, and almost died from blood loss.
“There was so much that I didn’t know,” Thompson said. “I was really moved.”
A skier turned cycling phenom sculpted in the climbs of the Sierra Nevada range, LeMond won the sport’s road racing World Championship in 1983 at age 22, and captured his first Tour de France three years later, after an epic battle with his teammate Bernard Hinault. LeMond’s eight-second victory over Laurent Fignon in the 1989 Tour is considered among the most thrilling moments in cycling history.
LeMond hoists the trophy after winning his third Tour de France in 1990. He became an outspoken voice against doping in cycling, which led to a period in which he was ostracized from the sport.
PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES
For decades, LeMond was also an outspoken and often lonely voice against doping in cycling— candor which drew the powerful wrath of Lance Armstrong, impacting LeMond’s businesses and standing in the sport. Armstrong would eventually confess to using performance-enhancing drugs, but as “The Comeback” author, de Visé, told me, there was a long stretch of LeMond’s post-racing life in which he was “kind of ostracized from his own tribe.”
The push to get LeMond a Congressional Gold Medal feels like a reassertion of his legacy. Thompson began talking up the idea with bike friends and fellow politicians, including occasional cycling partner Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.). Other early co-sponsors included Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.), former Rep. Tom Graves (R., Ga.), and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D., Nev.).
“It was an easy sell,” Sinema told me. “Greg LeMond ranks firmly amongst the most accomplished athletes in America.”
Thompson, meanwhile, wanted to get LeMond on board, but had a hard time making initial contact.
“He didn’t think it was real,” Thompson said. The congressman wound up asking de Visé and former U.S. pro Bob Roll to reach out to LeMond and confirm the medal effort was legitimate.
Thompson is eager to host a ceremony in Washington D.C. by the end of 2021 – hopefully, in person. Last week’s presidential signature starts a process in which a one-of-a-kind medal will be crafted. LeMond – a longtime design geek who’s made bikes, fitness equipment and even jewelry – will have a hand in the planning.
“I don’t know what to do, honestly,” he said.
LeMond’s wife, Kathy, said her husband was a little overwhelmed by the new recognition.
“He doesn’t look at himself as anybody that remarkable,” Kathy LeMond said. “But I’m very proud of him.”
These days, Greg LeMond is back designing bikes, including e-bikes. Now based in Tennessee, he’s become a passionate advocate for the pedal-assisted technology, which he believes encourages a wider range of people to start riding and keep going.
“I think getting people on bikes can cure so many things,” he said.
As for the sport, LeMond sounded increasingly at peace with his place in competitive cycling. After Armstrong’s confession in 2013, the mood began to shift. “The truth came out, and it really just set him free,” Kathy Lemond said. She and Greg recalled a cathartic visit to the 2013 Tour de France in which the crowd on Mont Ventoux cheered and shouted “LeMond for President!”
LeMond returned to France's famed Mont Ventoux in 2013, where he congratulated eventual winner Chris Froome and was greeted with cheers of "LeMond for President!" PANORAMIC/ZUMA PRESS
“Really, the problem with the whole sport was the corruption at the bottom part starts at the top,” Greg LeMond said. “If it’s really corrupt at the top, it’s going to corrupt everybody. That’s when people get away with things — it allows everybody to think the rules don’t apply.”
LeMond sounded upbeat about cycling’s current state, especially its burst of precocious stars. He enthused over the 20-year-old Belgian Remco Evenepoel and 22-year-old Tadej Pogacar’s narrow victory in this year’s Tour de France— sealed in a late-stage time trial against fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic that reminded older cycling fans of LeMond’s time trial triumph over Fignon in ‘89.
“This is a whole new era of riding,” LeMond said. “I’m not saying the sport is perfect, but it bodes well when you see [young] talent.”
As for the medal, he’s still trying to wrap his head around it. The congressional language said it represented “the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.”
LeMond is the first pro cyclist to be recognized. He looked at towering names like Jesse Owens, considered the obstacles they’d overcome, and wondered if he belonged.
“I didn’t ever expect recognition when I started racing,” LeMond said. “I just really had a blast. I mean, I was pretty good at it, and it was a whole new world for me.
“But this? I look at the list of the medal [winners] and I’m going, ‘I’m in really, really good company.’”
Greg LeMond is in good company. And he belongs.
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