& Breda Weekend
June 2012. Browsing the internet, looking for information about Greg is becoming a daily habit. "LeMond speaking about modern cycling in Atlanta", "American cycling legend special guest at Interbike". Off course Greg is meeting people, but not in our countries. Living in France, Spain and Belgium is not an advantage when you want to see your hero in real life.
Suddenly I see an advertisment for a bikeride in Holland. "The ride of the Paragames" which is organized in Breda. It is not the ride that has my attention, but it's a picture that is very familiar to me. A man in a La Vie Claire outfit sitting on his bike. Nice picture, but the comment is even nicer. It says "Greg LeMond coming to Breda". From my hometown, Antwerp in Belgium, Breda is just a 30 minutes ride. Can this be for real ? Is this our chance ?
In a rush I start doing everything at the same time. First I contact my dear friends Albert and Nicolas. "Guys, you have to come to Belgium" ! Not knowing what to do first I contact the organisation and ask for a meet and greet. "No problem" is the answer of a very friendly John. "You're welcome in Breda and I will personaly propose you to Greg". Wow again. The final "Wow" sounds even harder when the same person tells me Greg willd be present in Belgium 2 days before the bikeride in Breda and there will be a reception in Breda on Saturday. Just at 20 kilometers from my home.
Somewhere in Spain that "Wow" must have sounded like "Nooooo". Organising this trip in just 7 days not knowing if we will really meet Greg is for every one of us a risk. Yes, we have a confirmation Greg is coming, but traveling more than 2000 kilometers to Belgium just talking to Greg for maybe 20 seconds is impossible for our friend Albert. Even for Nicolas it's a risk but he made his arrangements and comes to Belgium.
Thursday June 21. Nicolas and I met each other for the first time in Antwerp. We eat something in a restaurant and talk about our upcoming weekend. The expectations are high but we know that there's a chance that we'll just have a few seconds with Greg. Just enough to shake hands and say hello. But even that would be great. Meeting Nicolas for the first time is great and so the "fraternity" of Greg LeMond Fans becomes closer.
Friday night. We take the car and go to Terhagen, a town near Antwerp. It's our first attempt meeting Greg. There's a bikerace for ex professional riders like Josť De Cauwer, Greg's former sporting director of the ADR team in 1989. Is Greg coming or isn't he? The rumor is spread that he's late at the airport and might miss the event. Two hours later a black Mercedes arrives and stops by. Behind the wheel John, the organizer of the Breda event. Next to him Greg LeMond.
When he steps out of the car Nicolas and I are close enough to welcome him. The first handshake is a fact. I ask him if he knows who we are. When we tell him we send him the book for his 50th anniversary, containing his pictures and specials messages, he reacts like a child who gets a candy from the shop. He tells his son, his friend Ron and his companion Patrick that we are the ones from the book. Apparently this book became a special item for the LeMonds and he thanks us several times. He actually takes his time for us ignoring the orders from the organisation to follow them to the nearby restaurant. When he has to go he quickly arranges 2 VIP passes for us so we can join him in the restaurant, which is also a cycling museum. We're speachless. This is above all expectations. We speak to him again in the museum, take a picture and record a message for our friend Albert who is still in Spain. A very kind Greg even takes time to sign some of our special jerseys.
Twelve hours later we arrive at a hotel in Breda for the reception of John's book. While we enter the hotel we see Greg and his entourage sitting in the lobby. We say hello and talk for about half an hour. Then it's time for the official moment of the day and we decide to take a seat in the lobby and wait for Greg to pass by. Many hours pass and at approximately 20:00 PM a very tired looking Greg LeMond joins us in the lobby. Surprised we're still there he starts talking about his career.
We collect some autographs and share our email addresses. When it's time for his dessert, we decide to call it a day and return to Antwerp. We thank him, his son Scott, Ron and Patrick for their time and head home like kids with a very big smile on our faces. Driving back home and eating a burger at the local junk food restaurant are the last activities of the day.
Sunday Nicolas has to return home to Paris. It's been a weekend we will never forget. Thanks to that one advertisment, John and off course Greg, Scott, Patrick and Ron.