France - Carcassonne
July 2014. Greg is doing a live chat on Eurosport. He’ll be doing the whole Tour de France for them. Albert & I see an opportunity. We will both be on vacation not too far from the July 21st rest day in Carcassonne. When the chat begins, Thierry and I dare to ask for Greg to join us in a casual ride there. We try not to hope for too much as we are aware our question might not be picked up by Greg. But pretty soon during the chat, not only our question pops up but Greg agrees to it ! We have to pinch ourselves. We have a date.
During the period before july 21st, our excitement grows and we prepare for the trip. Thierry feels hopeless behind his computer. He has to remain in Belgium to work. No way to escape it. We will have to keep him updated with phone messages. The man is dying.
Albert is anxious. This will be his first meeting ever with Greg LeMond. He’s never had the chance to go anywhere near the man in Z. Coming from Spain, Albert is nervous about getting lost in the Castelnaudary countryside between a vineyard and a sunflower field.
supposed to be cool. I've met Greg a
few times now and I've ridden with him on 2
occasions. But this one is different. This time is actually scheduled.
Expectations are higher. I rode with Greg in Megève in 2013 for the
Time-Megève-Mont Blanc “cyclosportive”. Greg & his team mate
Patrick were awesomely kind but Greg was just recovering from a car
and was not in a good shape. There were also 800 riders which
made it far from being “intimate”. Last april Thierry & I
were heading for the Paris-Roubaix cobblestones when we met Greg and
offered him to come and join us. He agreed right on the spot ! That
was so unexpected and wild that we're still having a hard time
believing it was true.
The same thing happens later in a descent. I instantly recognize the biker-like way of throwing his knees on the side when turning at high speed. We’re having fun. Suddenly, we go “uh-ooh” when Greg goes wide after a bend on the right and misses a turn. After the initial shock of imagining the headlines “Former Tour de France hero pushed over a cliff by dumb fan”, I tease Greg a little bit : “You’re a terrible ad for a helmet”,I say. “I forgot it” is his reply. Then we realize Scott is wearing a POC helmet, which design is… May we say “questionable” ? But wait, who are we kidding ? I'm wearing the Oakley Eyeshades myself ! Talk about questionable design… Taste is the enemy of art.
We come back where we started and this is the end of the ride. Me and my brother have this “remember when we were kids ?” expression on our faces. Albert looks like he’s still a kid, actually, his smile going from one ear to the other. We made it. Not only did we make it but the casual way it all happened was, for us, more than perfect. Greg has an ability to treat his fans as equals, in a very humble and natural way. That’s admirable.
a quick shower, we unpack
the few gifts we have for Greg. Among them, those two t-shirts designed
by Thierry. You might recognize them. The first is the same
t-shirt we used
for our Lac de Vassivière pilgrimage. The second is a
replica of the “best rookie” white jersey Greg won 30 years ago for his
first Tour de France. You can tell Greg’s having fun.