Vive Le Tour

Right around July the 1st, I usually surprise my wife with my annual statement,” Guess what time it is dear?” She says “what time is it?” I tell her Tour de France time and she groans because for the next three weeks she knows I will be glued to the “telly” and watching the Tour on a DVR rebroadcast every day or evening whenever I have a chance to sneak it in. This year because of the Pandemic, the Tour was delayed to September so my statement came as a real surprise to her but nonetheless, I tried to make it as unobtrusive as possible without missing all the exciting action of the world’s most grueling bike race. I always look forward to the insightful commentary of Phil Liggett and although we all miss Paul Sherwen due to his untimely death, the team of Bob Roll, Christian Vande Velde and Chris Horner fill the gap with expertise and insightful commentary.

This year we had a surprise as a young Slovenian, Tadej Pogacar from the UAE Emirates Team pulled off a stunning victory in the final time trial and won the stage by one minute and 55 seconds. He took back the yellow jersey from Primoz Roglic, his best friend on the Dutch Jumbo Visma squad, to create an unsurmountable 59 second lead going into the final celebratory stage into Paris. Really exciting and the role of young people in this year’s Tour was impressive. Not only did Pogacar win the Tour at 21 years of age, ( the youngest since 1914), but we had a star in our own right make his mark on his first Tour as well. Sepp Kuss, who rides in support of Roglic on the Jumbo Visma team, had an outstanding Tour and was the strongman in the mountains. Watch for him as a rising star in future tours. His stock is rising rapidly as he was a relative unknown up until this time riding out of Durango, Colorado.

MERIBEL, FRANCE – SEPTEMBER 16: Arrival / Sepp Kuss of The United States and Team Jumbo – Visma / Col de la Loze (2304m) / during the 107th Tour de France 2020, Stage 17 a 170km stage from Grenoble to Méribel – Col de la Loze 2304m / #TDF2020 / @LeTour / on September 16, 2020 in Méribel, France. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images,)

I kind of lost a little interest in the Tour in recent years due to the doping scandals. But I always at least watched the recaps. This years excitement kind of reminded me of when Greg LeMond overtook Laurent Fignon back in 1989 to win the yellow jersey. France was devastated at the unbelievable result. LeMond rode the final time trial at an incredible 34 miles per hour average with the newly created time trial aero bars on his bike. I had the opportunity a number of years ago to ride twice with Greg at a charity ride in Maryland. It was my good fortune to have a little bit of the Tour rub off on me those days when I asked Greg numerous questions about the Tour. He said a lot of interesting things like, ” Fignon had the opportunity to use the bars but refused. It cost him 14 seconds and a Tour loss for France.” He also was kind enough to sign autographs for everyone long into the night. His friendly demeanor was impressive and the guy still showed flashes of brilliance on the ride although he was not in great shape due to a massive schedule of charity events and business travel. The three time Tour winner was also kind of a character. Our one friend riding with us kept trying to hammer Greg and near the end, Greg shot off to hide behind a pine tree. Our friend eventually came roaring by on his bike looking for LeMond. As he passed, LeMond came out from behind the tree and laughed with us at the wasted effort of our friend trying to hammer him to the finish. As we finished, our friend looked incredulously at LeMond and asked where he went because he was trying desperately to catch him. LeMond just chuckled and we all had a laugh at that one. The guy could take pictures for miles on end without touching his handlebars and his riding skills were obvious that day.

Those days of riding with the champ restored my faith in the race. He told a lot of stories about the organization, the history of the event, and the audacity of the upstart Americans who were making their presence known on a basically European stage. As many know, the French have a bit of a superior air about them when it comes to Americans. I can remember being in Geneva, Switzerland with my wife and trying to impress her with my limited French at a bar. The bartender was French and looked at me with disdain when I basically asked him for a glass of glass. I had a laugh about that one but his reaction was like I was Chevy Chase in European Vacation. A typical rube American trying to make his mark. The Tour is a French event and it seems to be clean at this point. They have made it their point to always have the race and make it fair as a matter of national pride. When the Tour ended this weekend, I was a little down as I always am because it is one more year passed for me, and also the Tour. I am a fan and hope that someday, I can perhaps see it in person. On the bucket list for sure. Thanks for reading

A True Gentleman

From the Best of Chroniclesofmccloskey.com

DSC00468 I am going to “shift gears” here for a moment( no pun intended) and talk about a true American sports icon. The picture you see here is of yours truly in the foreground and a gentleman you might not instantly recognize if you are not a cyclist. This man is currently the only American to officially win the Tour De France. In fact he won it 3 times. His run was interrupted by an unfortunate hunting accident with his brother in law where he was accidently shot. He recovered and went on to win the Tour again. An astounding feat considering the scope of his injuries. I am speaking of none other than Greg LeMond.
I have had the good fortune to be invited to a charity bicycle ride in Maryland for the last three years where Greg was the featured guest. JR Ellis, Ken Krieger and I were invited each year by our friend Scott Weiner who is on the board of 1 in 6. 1-in 6 is an organization that was formed to help men who were abused as children. Greg is also on the board with Scott and devotes countless hours in serving the needs of men all over the country. The significance of 1 in 6 is that one out of every six men have been abused as a child. An astounding statistic that makes one take notice. Greg is not only involved in the organization but spends a considerable amount of time every year with many charitable organizations as well as his many businesses which are related to the bicycle industry. LeMond is an innovator. For instance, he was a seminal founder of the technology that inspired Giro Helmets. He worked with Boone Lennon, a former US Ski Team coach, to develop the aero bar which puts a bicycle rider in an aerodynamic position during a time trial in a bike race. In the 1987 Tour, Greg used the aero bar and his position allowed him to ride between 35-37 MPH during the final time trial of the Tour that year. Greg won by 8 seconds over Laurent Fignon, a Tour winner from France and very competitive rider. One of the interesting things that Greg recounted on our ride was that he was criticized for using the bar almost as if he was cheating. But Greg said that Fignon had the opportunity to use the bar but he and his coach Cyrille Guimard refused to use it. Over a 2500 mile race that averaged 25 MPH over three weeks, the race came down to 8 seconds. Had Fignon opted to use the bars, who knows what the result would have been but Greg was the innovative winner.
JR, Scott, Ken and I rode many miles with the Tour champion during these events and the interesting thing is that most of the people in the ride either were concentrating on their own ride or they don’t really know what Greg has accomplished in his 52 years. As you can see from the picture, he is older but the guy can still ride. You will also note that he has a camera around his neck. He is so comfortable on the bike that he can ride for long periods of time without his hands on the bars and take pictures of the Maryland countryside. Amazing!!
Again, LeMond is an innovator and his stories of the industry and his involvement are riveting and makes riding with him educational as well as very pleasurable. The nice thing about LeMond is that he is personable, will sign autographs for hours at a time and spends long hours after the ride talking to anyone who approaches him. A truly admirable way to live for a world renowned celebrity. No question is left unanswered and his passion for the sport of cycling has not dwindled one bit since his Tour days. As you take another look at this picture, you will see that I am saying something to him and he is amused. Imagine the patience of this man listening to my stories for 85 miles. But, this is LeMond. Professional, caring, innovative, and entrepreneurial. A true gentleman.
You will hear a lot about another Tour champion who has been disgraced. There have been many allegations and truths that have come out which contrast the career of Greg LeMond. In keeping with the guiding precepts of my blog, I always concentrate on the positive and the lighthearted stories. No matter what you hear, always know that there is at least one guy in the sport of bicycle racing who has always been a clean competitor and a true representative of the American spirit that went to Europe and competed against the worlds best on their stage. LeMond was a pioneer breaking into the old world network of European Road Racing. I am so fortunate to have made his acquaintance and look forward to riding with him again this summer. If I am invited Scott( hint, hint). If you would like more information on the 1 in 6 organization, you can view their web site at  http://www.1in6.org. Thanks for reading.

Vive Le Tour
The Tour Champion and a Wannabe.