The only American winner of the Tour de France, Greg LeMond is still full of fire. The fire might not be in his legs anymore, but he is not afraid to speak his mind. For many years, Greg LeMond was an outcast in the cycling world. Yes, he is a three-time Tour winner, but then Greg did what no one saw coming. He fired a verbal shot at THE Lance Armstrong. No big deal, right? Many top athletes shoot their mouths off, but Greg attacked a national hero. You know, the guy who defied all odds and rode back from the brink of death to win seven yellow jerseys. The guy who had cool Nike commercials, discussing what he was “on.” The black and yellow warrior for the weak was being called a cheater by Greg LeMond. The cycling world and cancer survivors and just about anyone else turned on LeMond. Many screamed that Greg LeMond was munching on “sour grapes.” This hatred for Greg Lemond went on for quite some time, costing him star power and much of his livelihood.
After the fall (and still tumbling) of Lance Armstrong, LeMond was vindicated. Many in the cycling world was embarrassed at the treatment of the Greg, and in an interview with L’Équipe newspaper, Greg repeated the numbers that never made sense:
“When I raced, I had a VO2 max of 93, and I never developed more than 400 watts. Armstrong’s VO2 max, which Ed Coyle mistakenly revealed, was no more than 78. So, considering his weight – 73 kg, he could never produce 500 watts to ride up the Madonna as he said, or 475 watts on the climb of L’Alpe-d’Huez. With his VO2 max, he couldn’t exceed 375 watts. To increase his performance by 30%, he had to dope. But did he achieve his performance only with doping? What doping did he use that others didn’t? All I know is that there are 50-70 watts missing, which we don’t know the origin of. There is something that I still do not understand.”
Back in good graces of the two-wheeled world, Greg LeMond did not kick back. He is admittedly a strong defender of cycling and the purity of it. He has said time and time again that if you truly love cycling you must defend it. When asked by L’Équipe newspaper in July of 2016 about today’s riders, particularly Chris Froome, Greg LeMond mentioned Froome’s high cadence spin of Mont Ventoux in 2013 where the rider’s data was matched to the video at the point of attack:
“You can’t get a gap on small gears,” LeMond argued. “The great physiologist Frederick Portoleau showed that when Froome accelerates hard, his heart only shows small variations. This is troubling. What bothers me is hearing some technicians say it’s science fiction, which is a kind of misinformation. Others make us believe they are ahead of the best scientists, the famous Team Sky marginal gains! What bollocks! There are no new methodologies. That is wrong. In this area too, miracles do not exist.”
LeMond did go onto say that he would not give anything definitive based on a single ride. Matter settled? Not so fast, my friend. It was not long before hidden motors entered the world of cheating, after a cyclocross rider was caught with one in her bike during a race. LeMond responded to the Associated Press in July of 2016, “I believe it’s been used in racing [and] I believe it’s been used sometimes in the Grand Tours.”
Fast forward to 2017 and “60 Minutes” runs a story on hidden motors in professional races. In the episode, Jean Pierre Verdy, a former French Anti-Doping Agency testing director, told CBS he had been disturbed by speeds on mountain climbs, saying informants among riders and team managers told him about 12 riders used motors during the 2015 Tour de France. Hungarian designer Istvan Varjas, who makes hidden motors for bikes, believes such cheating exists and noted one motor design can be hidden inside the hub of the back wheel but would boost the normal wheel weight by about 800 grams (1.7 pounds). Back in the 2015 Tour, French authorities actually reported that Team Sky was the only time trial team with heavier bikes . . . how much? 800 grams heavier. Again, Greg LeMond was in the fray, saying that the Union Cyclist International must do more to combat motorized cheating. “This is fixable. I don’t trust it until they figure out how to take the motor out. I won’t trust any victories of the Tour de France.”
Keep fighting, Greg.