Greg LeMond: The PEZ-Clusive Interview!
Greg LeMond returned to the Lehigh Valley as the keynote speaker for the International Cycling Center and U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame 2006 awards. Ten years after he was inducted into the Hall of Fame Greg looks great and had lots to say as we hooked up for this PEZ-Clusive interview…
Pez: How does it feel to come back to the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame 10 years after your induction at ceremonies held at the Lehigh Valley Velodrome?
GL: It feels great. I did two days of bike riding here and you realize not only how good the riding is but how the entire community really embraces bike riding. I went down today to the most bizarre but really coolest thing I’ve ever seen, the bicycle exchange at the Lehigh Valley Velodrome. There were hundreds and hundreds of cars, people exchanging bicycle parts, racing equipment and it’s cool. I love Pennsylvania, the riding is so nice here. I’m going to the Hall of Fame ceremonies tonight and one thing on the agenda is to someday have a permanent Hall of Fame down in this area. I think it would be really great to see a world class Hall of Fame in the USA.
Greg took in a little riding at the Lehigh Valley Velodrome.
Pez: What advice do you have for juniors and young racers starting out?’
GL: First, get a good coach and especially get connected with a local club or team that has some ex, older, good racers who they can learn from. Bike racing has, in the last 10 to 15 years, become so much about physiology, training, how you do intervals, but bicycle racing isn’t just a physical sport, it’s a tactical sport. You have to learn tactics from other racers and also from racing. As a young racer the more you can race the better. All types of racing, road, track, and criteriums. If you want to be a winner you have to do it all. Even mountain bike races should be included in a young person’s repertoire. Riders should not focus on the quantity of riding but on the quality of their rides, they should learn how to sprint properly and how to do an echelon. I am shocked sometimes when I ride with experienced racers who do not know instinctively to switch an echelon when the wind changes. They should also develop a very good pedal stroke and an ability to rapidly change cadence from low RPMs to high RPMs, where you’re able to use the high pedal speed to accelerate.
Greg’s a great story teller with a ton of great stories – as these young fans find out.
Pez: What do you think will be the long-term effect of the doping scandal and is there an answer or end to the problem?
GL: If we don’t face the problem openly and transparently then there will be a slow erosion of the sport and the sport itself will lose its credibility. I don’t know if it will affect people’s love of cycling completely, there are those who will love the sport and watch the Tour De France no matter what because of the dynamic nature of the sport and the stories within the sport itself, but the sport might not be looked at with the same regard it once had.
I believe it will lose those that believe in ethics in sports. The truth of the matter is that there are drugs in this sport that really transform athletes and I hate seeing a sport where you wonder if it is the drug and the doctor that is winning the race or if it’s the rider. What happened this year was a dramatic telling of the problem in the sport of cycling. It should be a wake up call for anyone who has doubts about the depth of the problem of doping in cycling. I believe that it is much worse than most people can imagine. The one positive outcome is that finally the UCI and the sport have had enough and hopefully this will be a new start for the sport. You hate to say it, but cycling really needed to be brought to its knees so that it can rebuild on a good solid foundation.
I think for the first time in years the UCI has taken a really hard-line step in not just making the athletes accountable but the management accountable. I think there are solutions to the drug problem but it will not be easy or pleasant. Retroactive testing must happen. Profiling athletes’ physical parameters from a young age so that you will see their true potential and their natural physical abilities would be a great start and when you see dramatic changes in their Vo2 max you could red flag the athlete and see what might be the reason for the change.
PEZ-Man Dave Berson in action – asking a few questions at the 2006 USCHoF dinner.
I also do not believe the governing bodies of the sports such as the UCI or USA cycling should have any input on setting policies on how the sports are regulated in terms of policing doping and administering the tests. You cannot have the fox guarding the hen house, there is a built in conflict of interest. Some athletes have called for the elimination of WADA and the UCI and I don’t agree. The athletes who have been caught are usually those that think these organizations have a grand conspiracy going on but I just don’t believe that is happening. It seems that when an American gets caught they blame it on the French and the labs. The other athletes that have been caught from other nations don’t ever blame a country or lab of even the “French conspiracy”.
WADA has been a crucial part of what’s going on and it is WADA that has put the pressure on the many sports federations to change. A lot of people in the cycling world like to criticize WADA but they criticize it because it keeps hitting right at the truth of the matter. Dick Pound takes a lot of criticism from the cycling world but he knows exactly what is going on in our sport and a lot of implicated athletes just want to shoot the messenger.
The sport of cycling, and many sports for that matter, is at a crossroads, either we have sports as we used to know and love them or it becomes pure entertainment and anything goes. I know that personally, I would not want my children to race in the current professional peloton and if it is the “anything goes”, as some think it should be, I would not want to have anything to do with the sport. I do hope that the current crisis in cycling will wake the world of cycling and force the sport to change, or we will see a slow death of the sport.
WADA is taking some very good steps toward solving the problem. They are trying to work with Interpol, which is a worldwide police agency. It is groups like WADA that I hope will get governments to criminalize doping. Right now you can get fined by your federation or governing body but what if it was made a felony in every country to be doping? I’m a big believer in plea bargains like they do in our criminal justice system but if an athlete takes drugs and is not willing to come out clean on the whole system, how it is working, then you get kicked out for life. If a rider cooperates then they can come back and race after a reduced punishment period has been served. Perhaps you give them a second chance because it’s not just the riders that are involved in this sophisticated doping program it’s the team managers, the sponsors, and many others who are pressuring the rider to do the program.
I think that what Frankie Andreu did recently is really the right step, the right direction for things. I heard rumors that USADA might penalize him and that would be the worst message to send to the world of sports. I understand why he felt the need to come forward and hope that any penalty he receives is symbolic. He made a mistake and is now trying to lead the way towards honesty in cycling and I respect that.
Pez: I had read that his old team might penalize him.
GL: I don’t believe his team will ever go there, I don’t think they will want to open up that can of worms and the talk of penalties is all just PR. The worst thing is if USADA used him as an example to punish him, then you just get people closing up. We all hear about it, positives, doping scandals, but we want to figure out exactly how they bring it in, what they’re using, how are they doing it, how they are avoiding detection, and what drugs are being used. If you can do that and you know what is being used then you can start building tests for those drugs. Also, retroactive testing is a huge tool. If they had kept my blood and urine samples from 1986 and I took something illegal at the Tour De France and I lost my first Tour De France today, it would just as devastating as losing it in 1986.
Greg was inducted into the US Cycling Hall of Fame in 1996.
Pez: Three Tour De France Wins, amateur and professional World Championship titles, LeMond Bikes, LeMond Fitness, and you’re a pilot. What drives you to be so successful?
GL: I’ve matured a lot. My success has been driven by multiple factors. Some are things you would have to read a book on psychology about successful people because there are wide ranges of experiences that affect us. But, for me I have come to a point where my main focus is having a happy family, and business is a necessary part of life. Being the best father and best husband I can be takes priority. It’s always been in my mind as a priority but it was all talk because I still traveled and did 200 days per year away from my family. I don’t want to be that busy. I just want to be busy enough and still enjoy life.
ABOUT CYCLO-CROSS: MAINSTAY OF WINTER TRAINING
Pez: Cyclo-cross has always been popular in Europe and is now booming in the United States with the Crank Brothers U.S. Grand Prix of Cyclo-Cross, Verge events, and others. What was your experience with cross as a competitor and did this influence the design of the highly popular LeMond Poprad cyclo-cross bike?
GL: If you go back to when I first started cycling, cyclo-cross was a mainstay of my winter training. Cyrille Guimard was the coach and each year I was on Renault that team won the French National Cyclo-Cross Championships. Each week from October until January riders would race a minimum of once a week and train 12-14 hours per week with two of those days doing cyclo-cross, very intense, kind of like a time trial. If you think about the physiology of it you maintained a high level of fitness, what you gained all summer. Guimard was really forward in his training regimens by saying you don’t gain all this fitness only to take three months off in the winter and have to start from scratch. That’s what was happening. Back in the 1970’s that’s what riders did, except Merckx. Merckx was racing year round and it showed in his performance in the early season.
Greg battling with teammate and nemesis Bernard Hinault at le Tour in 1986.
ABOUT RACING IN 1986
Pez: Can you tell us about some of your best moments from the years you won the Tour De France and 1986 in particular?
GL: 1986 was my most consistent year. I missed winning Milan-San Remo and took second there. One of my most regretful moments was when I was behind Moser with 20-30 km to go in Paris Roubaix and I believe I was at my highest condition ever for that race. That’s the one race I really wish I could have had, a classic like Paris-Roubaix, but I didn’t get it. Everyone thought I only focused on the Tour but that was just out of survival after my hunting accident. I never intended to focus only on the Tour. Had I had it my way, I would be trying to win classics in the spring, the Tour De France in the July, and the Worlds in August. The Tour De France in 1986 was great but it doesn’t sit as my highest emotional event. It was a hard fought, painful battle between Bernard Hinault and me. It doesn’t go down as one of those dream experiences. It goes down as one of those painful experiences. Although twenty years down the road it’s great because I won against the great Hinault.
Thank you very much Greg and please have a great evening.
More information on Greg LeMond, LeMond Racing Cycles, and LeMond Fitness can be found at www.greglemond.com.
Information on the International Cycling Center can be found at