The anticipation that lead to the book was very simple. We only had one question : is this the book we’ve been waiting for ? Let’s see…
There are a few “Greg LeMond” books in our library. First, there is “Greg LeMond’s complete book of bicycling” but it’s more a cycling guide than anything else. It leaves us wanting for more Greg. Samuel Abt’s “Incredible comeback” is full of facts but poor on pictures and doesn’t cover Greg’s last few seasons. “Le Mythe Américain” does deliver on pictures but contains no interview whatsoever. We were in need of something more complete.
Our first few glimpses of the book on internet were promising : lots of pictures and big ones ! As fans, pictures in books and magazines are the first things we’re after. Then came the Chicago book launch at the Rapha store. That’s where we noticed the size of the book. It’s massive. This impression was confirmed when I opened the box in which it came. It’s a big book and it is a nice looking book with silver lettering. Expect a good first impression when you give this to your loved ones for Christmas.
Of course my first reflex was to browse through the book and eye-scan the pictures, looking for novelty. It’s wonderful. We have a lot of archives at GLF but I have to say I was happy to discover more than a few pictures I had never seen. For instance we’ve been looking for ages for pics of stage 8 of the 1985 Tour de France. Well, that search is now over. Candid pictures are there too : go to page 42 to see what is probably Greg’s first training ride with Hinault. The badger is riding an unidentified bike and… left his signature at the bottom right of this pic. Most of those images come with a commentary from Greg himself or Guy Andrews that allows us to track where and when it was taken, which is really important for the hardcore fan. The other thing that is very appreciated is that most of those pictures hold an aesthetic value on top of documenting Greg’s achievements. It’s often hard to find a beautiful picture for a great race. In this book you get not only that but also very cool pictures from behind the scenes or even races where Greg wasn’t that great (check Milan San Remo 1988, for instance, where Greg did not finish).
Another thing I like is that the pictures are, most of the time, not cut in half and spread over 2 pages. It’s always very frustrating for us to have Greg’s face cut in two… A few “fan favorites” are also on display. Go to page 215 for that picture on Alpe d’Huez in 1989 where Fignon looks back at Greg, only to see him about to counter attack. That’s the 1989 Tour de France in one frame. The only real surprise in that book might be the absence of the Alpe d’Huez handshake between LeMond and Hinault in 1986. It is not shown, but it is discussed a lot.
Which leads us to the other side of the book : words. From the start, Guy Andrews warns us : this book only covers Greg LeMond’s career, not what happened beforehand not what came up afterwards. The author chose to give the most space to front row observers of Greg’s career. They’re not short on fun stories, that’s for sure. It’s a good cast too, as they complete each other. For example, Phil Anderson and Andy Hampsten focus on Greg’s physiology and training while Shelley Verses takes us aboard team La Vie Claire, Ronan Pensec covering the Z team. It would have been great to have more input from inside the Renault team, since it brought us Greg but also his two rivals Hinault and Fignon, but the person that really helps us get into Greg’s head eventually is Robert Millar. As you would expect from his recent works as a columnist for Cyclingnews, Robert is sharp and sneaks into Greg’s mind in a way I’d never seen before. Add in the mix the rare words of longtime friend Otto Jacome and you get Greg’s story pretty much covered.
The control freak in me couldn’t help but fact checking every piece of information contained in the book. I’m glad to report there aren’t that many. Greg’s team in 1980 was not Lejeune but US Créteil. Lejeune was just a sponsor. That’s the nerd in me talking. Laurent Fignon did not win the 1983 Vuelta. Hinault did. Andy Hampsten mistakes Luz Ardiden for Superbagnères. Nothing too bad.
I’ll be honest : this book looks a lot like the book we’ve been waiting for, except… It’s without a doubt the best book about Greg’s career but, as pointed out by Guy Andrews himself, this not about Greg’s life. Guy Andrews is a journalist, not a fan, he knows his craft and how to valorize his subject without falling into any kind of flattery. He writes comprehensive chapter introductions and photo commentaries that hold the book together and give us pieces of context his witnesses sometimes overlook. He succeeds in giving us the new reference book about Greg LeMond. It’s about time someone did it ! We’re very grateful for this.
Now… Our duty is clear and “Yellow Jersey Racer” puts it in perspective. All we need now is Greg’s own book. With his own words. All the way. Our goal at GLF has always been to promote Greg and share his story. We will publish a story shortly which will cover how Greg became a cyclist in the first place. Greg’s story needs to be told. We’ve been campaigning for it to happen for awhile now, offering our help and publishing stories, but we couldn’t get Greg to commit to it. Yet. We hope this book contributes to inspire Greg and motivate him to start writing. As I said, if needed, we’re here to help. In the meantime, we will absorb the awesomeness of Guy Andrews’s book.