Tour de France 2015
Greg LeMond Fans On Tour in Paris! Except this time it sounds more like Greg LeMond Fans at home. Home, because if Thierry and Albert will travel a long way, I already live in Paris. Home because yet again we’re gonna spend some time with the Eurosport crew, Eurosport being "Home of cycling". Home sweet home.
I’m just having my friends over, then! The family being away, Albert and Thierry will use the kids’s bunk beds. That’s team building all right. Believe it or not, this is only the 2nd time the whole 3 of us meet in real life. And it’ll be the first time the 3 of us get together with Greg. Pretty special indeed.
Thierry comes in first and his black Washoe hugs my orange Washoe. Long time no see, bud! We go pick up Albert at the airport and have lunch at a typical french "bistro", which is basically a bar, with a french twist, whatever that is.
We spend Saturday’s afternoon riding our bikes. Thierry & I with our LeMond Washoes, Albert riding my 1993 LeMond Gan team replica. First we cruise along the river, La Seine, from Bastille to the Eiffel Tower. We stop by Notre-Dame as it’s Albert’s first time in Paris. We yell "Esmeralda" a few times to no avail. The gipsy lady will remain hidden. Maybe we should have ridden "Gitane" bikes instead of LeMonds ? (Gitane being Greg’s bike brand when he was in the Renault team -1981 to 1984- and the french word for “gipsy”).
After having found the Eiffel Tower we cross the river and head to the Trocadero where we can snap a few shots of the iron lady with our steel companions. A local inquires about the Washoe, that beauty leaves no cyclist indifferent.
"See Paris and die"… Since our job on this earth is done, we decide to go on a suicide mission and… Ride "La Place de l’Etoile"! This is where the Arc de Triomphe stands proudly. This is also the most dangerous place in France to drive, let alone ride a bike. In fact, this place is such a mess that this is the only place in France where, if an accident occurs, every driver involved will share an equal responsibility, whatever the circumstances. It’s that bad.
Rest assured, we survive the trip and proceed our way down the Champs Elysées. This is a moment of glory and CO2 fumes. We’re there! This is where the peloton parades for the finish of the Tour de France: Champs Elysées, then Place de la Concorde, Quai des Tuileries… We go to the Louvres pyramid and head back to Bastille. There we take the "Coulée verte", a bike lane that exits Paris east into the Vincennes woods. We circle around the 3km long bike track beside the hippodrome and shoot a few videos on the way. Then we head home for dinner.
Sunday is a puzzle. We know Greg and his gang will be here. Greg knows we’ll be around too but since we have no pass we have no clue as to how we’re gonna be able to meet. At least we’re gonna make ourselves easy to spot and identify. It’s time to dress up! We’ve made some 1990 Tour de France 25th anniversary t-shirts and we plan on wearing them all day long. Unfortunately, the weather that day in Paris is beyond crap; it is really cold and pouring rain.
Since we have some time we head back to the river banks on our feet this time, taking advantage of "Paris-Plage", an event transforming the roads by the river into a kind of french riviera clone. Sort of. It makes for a nice promenade since the raining stopped momentarily. When we reach les Tuileries, we make our way back to the Louvre. The plan is to cross the park and head to Concorde. Since we’re by the Louvre, Thierry throws himself into a Da Vinci Codesque search for the "Arago" signs on the ground. Our detective skills are put to test. Thierry is still cautiously scanning the ground when Albert lets out a victory scream: "GREEEEEG!". Thierry and I look at each other for a second, still checking the ground for an “AraGreg”. We turn to Albert who is pointing to a car passing by. Yep, this is Greg LeMond’s Eurosport car. You know, the one with his face on it. I instantly jump and run beside the car, hoping to catch Greg’s eye. The window of the passenger’s seat is open and I can recognize our man Greg’s profile when I reach him. I call Greg and proudly display my t-shirt under his nose. I admit it sounds like a “Directioner” stalking fan attack. It’s embarrassing. But it wasn’t that bad, I promise. Anyway, Greg turns, greets me with a big smile and I see Kathy in the back, her eyes wide open, like: "No way! How did they manage to find us in this mess?". Frankly, Kathy, we have no idea.
Batman has the Batmobile, with all the gizmos and stuff. We, on the other hand, are promptly granted a seat in the GregLeMobile and, since it has the magic stickers on the windshield, all the roads of the Tour de France open for us. Talk about super powers. But with great power comes great responsibility and we must wait for the brave women peloton of "La Course by le Tour" to pass before we are allowed on the circuit. The poor ladies are soaking wet and the race is a succession of crashes upon more crashes. As soon as we’re clear, we’re on the rue de Rivoli and under the "flamme rouge".
The LeMond gang enters the Tour de France finish line village. Greg’s daughter, Simone, has made the trip to Europe with her friends Brian and Alicia. Nice folks. Greg is sprinting his way through the groups of people with his blue Washoe in one hand. We try to keep up and crack a few jokes ourselves. We bump into ex La Vie Claire teammate Alain Vigneron with his family and Greg keeps telling them how great a rider Alain was.
The small troop gathers under the Eurosport tent, safe from the rain that’s now back for good. Expect no mercy from the waters.
The atmosphere is quite relax. The Eurosport team is on a roll as it is the last stage; it’s a mix of high exhaustion and quick routine. The broadcast for the start of the stage comes quickly and we jump from puddle to puddle to witness the "Singin’ in the Rain" remake from Greg LeMond and Ashley House right on the finish line. The team struggles a bit to find the right camera angle. I am hired as Greg’s assistant when he needs some water. I feel like I’m his teammate sacrificing my last drop of water for my leader on the slopes of l’Alpe d’Huez. Nah, let’s just say I’m more than happy to help. Then it’s a wrap and back to the tent.
Greg’s afternoon is spent gathering the last intel available to feed the last show and watch the race. There is a meet & greet with a few VIPs too at one point. Greg and Ashley’s duo is smooth and jokes crack up here and there. We’re granted a change of wardrobe from Ashley but we take no pictures. Sorry, ladies, we’re not that kind of fans.
Greg finds some time to chat with us and… Surprise! He allows us to get a glimpse of his personal archive of pictures from his racing days… For us LeMond nerds, it’s The Vault. Imagine a mix of Fort Knox and Charlie’s chocolate factory, if you will. I mean christmas on steroids! We’re standing in front of his computer with our lower jaws wide open. We can’t believe it. We thought we had a lot of good material but here, we’re talking about thousands pictures, many of which have never been published. We agree we will definitely need to come back to that.
The last "LeMond On Tour" of 2015 shows Chris Froome answering a bunch of questions from the happy cloud he is standing on and then, at the speed of light, the whole Tour de France circus wraps up, determined to call it a day.
This is when Greg decides to spend a few minutes with the fans that have gathered on the Champs Elysées. They come from all over the world (mostly columbia, though) and they are all delighted to see how playful Greg can be. That’s as close as you can think about being a rock star.
Time flies and when we reach the Eurosport facility it is already getting dark. We take a moment to talk with Sam, one of Eurosport’s camera crew who proved himself to be an amazingly talented artist. He’s drawing portraits using just a Bic pen and a newspaper. The results are most impressive. Sean Kelly passes by to give his regards to the LeMonds. We pinch ourselves for being among the greats.
We take a few pictures and prepare to call it a day when a couple of UK based admirers of Greg show up. They’ve been trying to find him all day and look really tired. Again, Greg is more than happy to talk, smile and give a few hugs, much to the delight of everyone. It’s an emotional moment, and a perfect conclusion for the day as well as for the Tour frenzy.
On that day we’ve seen Greg meet so many different people: bystanders, cops, cycling nuts, south American crazies (and I mean it in the nicest way), British enthusiasts and/or hardcore fans, huge mogul corporates and TV network officials, ex teammates, co workers… And all day long, Greg greeted them all the same and it seems so easy for him. That’s who he is, basically.
That’s one of the many, many reasons we are proud to call ourselves Greg LeMond Fans.