With the 2006 World Championships starting up Thursday – what better way to look ahead than a misty-eyed look back? Ed Hood takes us back 24 years to Goodwood, England, when a young Greg LeMond’s love affair with the rainbow stripes was still just a crush…
It’s the last lap and the crowd are going crazy, we’ve all spilled-out into the road on the finishing climb where a lone figure on a bike way too big for him, pedalling with a jerky, but powerful style is well clear. The jersey is unfamiliar – USA, jeez!
It’s Jonathan Boyer and he’s going to win the world championship. But wait a minute, there’s a rider chasing, fair-haired, more stylish but he’s wearing the same jersey as Boyer – it’s Greg LeMond.
There’s an Italian tucked-in behind LeMond; we know who he is – Giuseppe Saronni. Just as LeMond’s much-debated move captures Boyer, Saronni comes off LeMond’s wheel like a scalded cat. Out of the saddle, on the brake hoods, levering hard on the pedals with every bend of his arms he wins by a huge margin – five seconds.
The bunch winds its way up the only hill on the Goodwood circuit in the early going.
The youthful (but far from innocent) LeMond takes second and pre-race favourite, Sean Kelly is a disappointed bronze medallist.
Boyer, head bowed in despair is tenth, ‘Jock’ as he was known wouldn’t have won that day, Saronni and his squadra were ‘super’, but he was worth a medal.
It was just a pity that Greg didn’t think so.
To Goodwood, Or Not?
It was a last minute decision to go down to Goodwood, I had taken a week off work to watch the rain-blighted track worlds at Leicester and it wasn’t until the day before we decided to head south – a tent was chucked in the boot and we were off. We arrived at the start/finish area just in time to see Britain’s Mandy Jones raise her arm as ladies champion.
Next-up was the amateur race – the two races back then were amateur and professional – not under-23 and elite as it is now.
Not A Short Walk
Being the sad guys that we still are, we walked the whole circuit just to ensure we understood what the parcours was all about. It was no surprise when Bernd Drogan of East Germany won. The Eastern Europeans ruled the amateur roost in those Berlin Wall days.
Italian Giuseppe Saronni grabs the glory, while LeMond settles for second and gets rapped for chasing down his ‘team mate’.
Our walk around the circuit wasn’t without its compensations, one of the ‘ye olde England’ hotels was HQ for the Belgian squad. It was strange to watch the team mechanics work on Rene Maerten’s Rossin whilst the locals supped warm beer just yards away.
The rural circuit was leafy and picturesque but there was only one hill to speak of, the mile-or-so drag to the finish outside immaculate Goodwood horse race course.
The Big Show
On Sunday morning the pros lined-up for their 18 laps – 276 kilometres.
Dave chatted to fellow former Gent resident and New Zealand professional, John Mullin as the little Kiwi awaited the start. Mullin rode for a low-budget Belgian kermesse team and his aluminium Alan sported cheapo Campag Gran Sport equipment.
The Worlds always sees an early suicide break and ’82 was no exception.
Of Suicide Breaks And Inconsequential Moves
Tour de France King of the Mountains winner, Bernard Vallet was the man to go, but it was a planned move to take pressure off French team-leader, Bernard Hinault.
‘Le Blaireau’ would eventually quit well before the end, but Vallet wasn’t to know that as he ground-out his three hours out-front. Stocky, rather than anorexic like the real ‘special’ climbers, Vallet looked cool in his red, white and blue French jersey with no crash hat or shades to obscure his thick black hair and tanned, handsome face.
Vallet was caught by tall, blond, twice Giro runner-up, Tommy Prim of Sweden who was hoping a group of ‘heads’ would form around him. Vallet soon succumbed and Prim’s attack was in vain with no one bridging-up to him.
He did however send the crowd into raptures with his smooth, on the tops climbing-style. Cloth cap perched on his head, displaying no upper-body movement, his legs the colour of teak, his celeste Bianchi gleaming in the late afternoon sun-shine – the man was ice cool.
Italy’s Death Grip
Prim only lasted a couple of laps; the Italians were well in command with even Moser doing his share for Saronni – those cash-bonuses must have been big.
The classy Swiss with the male model looks, Serge Demierre tried his luck, but the Azzuri had the lid on tight. The last laps were run-off at warp speed and Boyer’s ride was a great one in that company.
LeMond was unrepentant after the finish; ‘We aren’t on the same team and we are not friends. I would not like to see him world champion.’
Yeah Greg, we noticed!