In 1989 Greg LeMond was the author of one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. On April 21, 1987, LeMond, the winner of the 1986 Tour de France, and the only American to ever do so, recovering from a broken thumb in the U.S., was accidentally shot in the chest and nearly killed by his brother-in-law while hunting. Months later, he had an emergency apendectomy, then tendonitis, then anemia, and by June 1989 he had being written off as a has-been, having finished more than an hour back in the Tour of Italy (second in prestige only to the Tour de France) behind winner, Frenchman Laurent Fignon. A month later, on the final stage of what most considered the best Tour de France ever, LeMond overcame a seemingly insurmountable deficit on the last day of the race, humiliating leader Fignon, a Parisian, and beating him by only eight seconds, the smallest margin in the 76-year history of the event. A month later he won the most prestigiuos one-day race, the World Championships in Chambery, France (again beating Fignon). Although pretty much ignored by the American Press (the Tour de France is the biggest annual sporting event in the world) LeMond was named Sports Illustrated's Athlete of the Year in 1989 (he also graced the cover three times).
And then there is Showa Park, the same course I'd raced four months earlier in the Tour du Japon. The world's top professional cyclists were doing an exhibition race there on November 3rd. Present for the race were Fignon, Dutchman Stephen Rooks(2nd in '88 Tour de France), Canadian Steve Bauer, and Italian Gianni Bugno(twice World Champion, 2nd and 3rd in Tour de France). I contacted the promoters to get LeMond to come to Yokota and ride with Volvo, but apparently he wasn't even going to race, thinking the birth of his first daughter was more important...*sigh*.
Andy, our buddy, in a breakaway.
We asked him to come to Yokota and ride with the team but he said he was going to hang out in Tokyo.
And that man with the blonde pony tail? That's Laurent Fignon, twice winner of the
Tour de France, 2nd in '89, among other achievements. Pete, (a cycling friend of our team), annoyed because
Fignon would not speak to us, began to yell "Eight
Seconds!!!" at him. I looked the other way, praying
Fignon wouldn't come over and kill Pete. It would have been bad press for the team.