How I helped Greg Lemond win his second Tour de France

Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond was the pioneer of aerodynamic cycling  Credit: Jean-Pierre Lenfant /Allsport
"Yeah, right, someone's pulling a good one on you. After all, what in the world would bring Greg Lemond to Cape Coral, Florida?"

I had just taken the bike off of my car and was warming up for our regular Saturday morning breakfast death march after having worked until 2:30 a.m. that morning.

Mike was the new owner of "The Bike Shop," a store where we had met every morning for the past three years. The previous owner, Clint, was there, and he wouldn't even acknowledge what was coming out of Mike's mouth. However, Mike insisted he was telling the truth.

Mike had supposedly received this mysterious phone call the previous evening from a guy who said he worked for Team Lemond. Team Lemond? Who the heck was Team Lemond?

In fact, the last we had heard of Lemond he was still struggling through some minor road races — recovering from a hunting accident where his brother-in-law confused him for a turkey. However, Mike, as serious as ever, said that he had gotten a call, and that "The Man" would be here some time that afternoon. As we staggered out the front of the store to saddle up, Mike's ears were burning with barbs about his gullibility.

It was the typical ride; out 23 back 23, seeing who could make the other guys' lungs bleed first. As usual, Clint won that battle. Back at the shop, we heard Mike's soprano wail: "Hey guys, Look what just arrived!"

In the back of his shop was a bike box labeled Team Lemond.

Like something out a "Cheers" episode, fingers were being pointed to a rival bike shop across town that actually could pull off such a stunt. I mean if anyone could create a fake bike box like that, they could do it.

We stood staring at the box as if it contained the Ark of the Covenant. It took us about five minutes before someone suggested we open it.

The ever-protective one, Mike insisted that we wait, but while he was distracted, one of us pried the front of the box open. Low and behold, there was a bike in there. A good one, too. Mike, sensing what was happening immediately closed the box and shoed us out of the service area.

Now we had a decision to make, and it didn't take long. After all, what did we have to lose by giving Mike the benefit of the doubt?

We were told that he would arrive sometime after noon. After showering and changing, I was the third one to return to the shop. Clint, the cool-headed skeptic, was first, video camera in-hand. Gerald, the clear-thinking attorney was there second with his video camera.

Tick tock, tick tock
It had been two hours and we were still waiting. In fact, I was stretched out on the floor of the shop when I heard the door chimes ring for the umpteenth time.

I didn't even have to see the face to know who had just arrived. The Khaki shorts, (which I assumed were supposed to be baggy) looked spray-painted onto his thighs. Quads pregnant with baby quads.

The only other thing I noticed was Clint firing up the video camera, and Gerald tripping over a basket of shoes trying to get a shot.

The back of the shop was a frenzy of activity: Lemond began to unpack his bike while Clint and Gerald fought for the best camera angles. In my sleep-deprived daze, all I could do was keep staring at his legs.

As he unpacked, he explained that he had just flown in from Belgium to meet his wife who was vacationing on Sanibel Island. He said this was to be a mini vacation for him before racing in the Tour of America in Tampa. Then he asked if we knew of anywhere he could get in a good two-hour ride.

Ride of a lifetime
Like a trio of latter-day Magellans, we stared over a map as Lemond started to put his bike together. Mike, nervous at the arrival of "The Man," had put the cranks on the wrong side of the bike.

When the bike was finally assembled, Lemond asked if we had charted a course for him.

"Hey Greg," I said, "if you wouldn't mind me riding with you, I could take you on a real nice 45 miler tomorrow." I immediately heard the video camera click off, Gerald looked at me like I had insulted his wife. Of all the gall! "Sure," he replied "I can't stand riding by myself." And there it was.

For whatever reason, Clint and Gerald didn't ride that day; it was just Greg and I. (I can call him Greg since I'm riding with him, right?)

Anyway, Greg explained that he was still working his way back into shape since the accident. He didn't seem out of shape as he reeled off a series of one-minute intervals. As he jumped, his tires would literally spin before he left me wondering how I would be able to catch up.

As we rode, I envisioned myself as one of his teammates, willing to take the fall, if necessary. In fact, after some blue-haired geriatric in an Oldsmobile cut us off, I was ready to let fly a few of my best insults, but Greg beat me to it.

The highlight came when we took a break halfway through the ride.

I was in a convenience store making sure to buy only the healthiest snacks and drinks to impress Greg, only to arrive at the counter to see him buying three snickers and a Coke.

Exiting the store, I saw him riding my triathlon bike.

You see, at the time, there was this new piece of equipment we tri geeks were using: aero bars. I was lucky enough to get one of the first ones offered to the public. So here was Greg Lemond, my riding buddy, "The Man," leaning over the front of my bike with his elbows in these pads, tucked in and liking it. "Hey, where did you get these things?" After a brief explanation, he then said something I would always remember:

"You know, these things have some possibilities."

A little over a year later, I saw that sight again. Greg bent over a set of aero bars — you know, the ones with "possibilities."

It was the last time trial and the last stage of the 1989 Tour De France. Greg trailed Frenchman Laurent Fignon by 50 seconds, a seemingly insurmountable lead.

And there he was, hunched over, cutting into the wind and Fignon's lead like a missile. When the dust had settled, he had won his second of three Tours de France and I couldn't help thinking that maybe a 45-mile ride with an age-group triathlete might have helped a little bit.

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