By James Raia

Greg Lemond: Finding New Challenges At 40

With little media fanfare or reminiscence, Greg LeMond turned age 40 in June 2001. Now nearly a decade removed from the top echelon of professional cycling, LeMond and his wife Kathy and the couple’s two boys and a girl, all teenagers, maintain their long-time residence in Medina, Minnesota.

The family also spends considerable time in Montana where the LeMonds own a fishing cabin and are building a family compound in Yellowstone Ranch, near Big Sky.

Since his retirement, LeMond has remained entrenched in cycling as a businessman. Some of his ventures away from cycling have not been as successful as he hoped, but his LeMond bicycles are extremely popular. He also has several additional ventures and business relationships, including cycling accessories that bear his name, a new arrangement with StairMaster and a new partial ownership of DeFeet, an athletic sock company in California.

LeMond has been wearing DeFeet socks for nearly a decade and has joined with the company to offer a line of LeMond apparel.

Always gregarious, LeMond spent more than twice his scheduled autograph-signing time at Interbike, the cycling industry’s major trade show, in Las Vegas.

While a steady flow of trade show attendees waited for autographs, LeMond chatted with each person and gladly posed for pictures. He also chatted with actor (and athlete) Robin Williams who tapped a surprised LeMond on the shoulder. LeMond also talked with other former athletes, long-time friends, business folks and cycling fans, greeting all comers with a hearty handshake and a smile.

Eventually, the former three-time Tour de France winner (1986, ’89 and ’90) left the expo with several friends, business colleagues (and a reporter) for a long lunch at the adjoining hotel’s Chinese restaurant.

Between story-telling, jokes and various exchanges with his small entourage, LeMond answered a wide-range of questions – his rekindled relationship with his father, his exercise interests and his family life. It was all done during a hearty offering a dim-sum, one of LeMond’s favorite dining choices.

Here’s part of the two-hour, lively session with LeMond during lunch:

Question: What was it like for you to turn 40?

Greg LeMond: It wasn’t like I had a middle-age crisis, but I did realize that I’m not young anymore.

Q: How much to do have a chance to exercise these days? You look good. You’ve lost weight?

GL: No, I haven’t lost any weight. I’ve seen photos when I say to myself, ‘Do I look that bad?’ I “porked out” a little bit this past summer, so maybe I’ve lost five pounds since then. But I’ve pretty much been the same weight the past few years, about 195 pounds (LeMond is 5-foot-9). I’m a lot more muscular than I was. When you are racing, if you know anything about exercise, you’re always breaking down muscle. You never have any muscle mass. In the three years after I stopped racing, even without any weight training, I gained about 30 pounds of muscle mass. But I’ve just starting running (about 45 minutes), so I can exercise while traveling. I’ve hated running forever. But in the last couple of weeks I’ve actually liked it. It feels less painful now than it did when I was racing. In the winter I cross-country ski five days a week and last year I did 45 days of downhill skiing. And in the summer, I still ride three days a week.

Q: For several years you and your father didn’t speak. But you’re back on good terms, right?

GL: I think why our relationship went sour is that because for the real fundamental part of my career, my dad never told me what to do. I was always independent. He advised me, and I asked him for advice. But he was never one to say, ‘You have to do this or that.’ As things got more important and my life became more businesslike, with the money and more responsibility, I think he got over concerned and all of a sudden our relationship dynamics changed and I wanted for him to be more like my dad than a businessman. But now we’ve been on very good terms for the past two years (after a four-year break). He likes to hike and he’s doing well in real estate (in Reno, Nevada). That time was brutal and it’s not something anyone should go through. But it’s much better and my dad is very affectionate.

Q: Do you watch cycling and are you still involved with competitive cycling in any way?

GL: It’s so hard to be involved in the sport unless you’re involved with a team or in television commentating, that’s about it. And I have no interest in commentating. I did want to get involved with sponsoring a professional team, but it didn’t work out Mercury. But we are still working toward that. But there are a lot issues in cycling right now that I don’t want to be associated with. But the sport will continue to thrive, and eventually I would like to get back into cycling.

Q: Do you look at the (cycling) results in the newspaper?

GL: Occasionally. But this summer we (the LeMond family) were in Montana. We had no television, no TV. So I couldn’t follow it. But I do like watching the Classics. Those are the races I think are incredibly exciting, the one-day events. It’s on OLN (Outdoor Life Network) and that’s going to help the sport a lot. But I’m just not a guy who watches TV. I never have been. I don’t watch other sports at all, well the only sports I watch occasionally are the winter sports in the Olympics – skiing.

Q: What has it been like for you since your career ended?

GL: “I did a lot of promotional stuff with my bicycles. I visit a lot of retail dealers and other stuff by businesses But this past year it’s been kind of calm. I was involved with the Mercury Cycling and that kind of fell apart for multiple reasons. I thought I was going to be spending time at the Tour de France and going to World Cup races, but that went by the wayside.

Q: A few years ago, you did television commentary at the Ironman in Hawaii. Do you have anymore plans for TV work?

GL: No. I didn’t care for it. I just didn’t care for the way they did cycling. Now, with the Outdoor Life Network, it might be a little bit better now that it’s live. But usually during the Ironman, you get about 11 seconds to say something intelligent, and it’s pretty hard to do it. It’s always that you say these stupid little comments. It’s not really commentary. I’m not into that, but I might do it again as I get older.

Q: Different guys react differently when they cross the line in victory. Did you ever plan how you were going to react, particularly your famous finish at the World Championships in Chambery, France?

GL: Usually, if you’re solo and on a long breakaway, maybe you could think about what you want to do. But I’ve never been so arrogant to think . . . well I don’t know. My reactions have always been spontaneous. Oh, my God, the sprint in Chambery! I was just watching Sean Kelly’s wheel. You don’t really know where the line is. I was just trying to keep him away. I looked up at the last second and said, ‘Wow! I beat Kelly. I won the sprint. I won the Worlds. He beat me in Milan San Remo and at Lombardy, both times for potentially my first Classics win. I remember I felt lousy the whole race (in Chambery) then the last two laps I felt invisible.”