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Race tech and the lat­est gear

In the 1982 race at Good­wood, LeMond and Boyer raced in the same colours but as in­di­vid­u­als. In the fi­nale of that race – as LeMond tells it – Boyer chased him down when he at­tacked, and when Boyer made a move in the clos­ing kilo­me­tre, open­ing a sig­nif­i­cant gap, it was LeMond who bridged to his fel­low Amer­i­can. He took the sil­ver be­hind Giuseppe Saronni, the first time any Amer­i­can had been in the medals at the Worlds, but his tri­umph was clouded by the ob­vi­ous ques­tion: might Boyer have taken a medal if LeMond had stayed in the wheels?

“Boyer cried af­ter­ward and com­plained he’d have won if I hadn’t moved on him,” LeMond told Abt. “No way! I was ham­mered by the press and ev­ery­one else: how can you do that to your coun­try...?

I was wear­ing an Amer­i­can jersey, sure, but there re­ally wasn’t an Amer­i­can team and I def­i­nitely wasn’t part of it.”

Sean Kelly, who took bronze, had a slightly more nu­anced view. “The USA wasn’t a team in the same way Italy, France or Spain was a team. Jock was do­ing his thing, and Greg was do­ing his. Even so, it wasn’t the done thing.”

That con­tro­versy gave LeMond an added im­pe­tus for 1983, as he said be­fore the race. “That’s why I want to do well to­mor­row. For a year I’ve heard tremen­dous crit­i­cism about what hap­pened. If Boyer had been the strong­est he would have won, out­right. If I was Ital­ian no one would have said any­thing. We were en­e­mies for two years be­fore that and the race was ev­ery man for him­self.” LeMond did have one ally in the race: An­der­son. They were wear­ing dif­fer­ent jer­seys, but ac­cord­ing to the writer John Wil­cock­son, they weren’t go­ing to at­tack each other. The Aus­tralian, who won the Am­s­tel Gold Race ear­lier that year, and was now recog­nised as one of the “heads” of the Euro­pean pelo­ton, in­fil­trated a mid-race move with LeMond; it was brought back into the fold by the Ital­ian team, who were the force to be reck­oned with in ev­ery Worlds road race through the 80s. Their de­fend­ing cham­pion, Saronni, was off form, but the ris­ing star Moreno Ar­gentin was very much in the mix. An­der­son then fig­ured in a sec­ond,

” I was ham­mered by the press. I was wear­ing an Amer­i­can jersey, sure, but there wasn’t an Amer­i­can team and I de initely wasn’t part of it” Greg LeMond

more im­por­tant move of seven rid­ers, in­clud­ing strong all-rounders in the Dane, Kim An­der­sen, and the Swiss, Serge Demierre. Crit­i­cally, how­ever, the Ital­ian in the break was Mario Bec­cia, a sec­ond­stringer. So the squadra gave chase. As the move fell apart, with only Demierre out front, the fi­nal manouevres be­gan.

“About 40km to go I fool­ishly de­cided to at­tack at the bot­tom of the hill,” re­called Philippa York. “There’s al­ways some­one who goes at the bot­tom of the hill and is coun­tered, and that was me. I was run­ning on adren­a­line and I’d just punc­tured and got back on, so I was a bit an­gry. Half­way up, Greg came past me, go­ing a lot faster than I was go­ing. I just thought, ‘There is no way I’m get­ting on that wheel.’”

“It was a good mo­ment,” re­called LeMond. “I went past – whoosh! And then Ar­gentin and [Faustino] Rupérez came up.”

At the sum­mit, there was a mo­ment of in­de­ci­sion as LeMond’s trio closed on Demierre, and the chasers be­hind the trio as­sessed their chances of bridg­ing to what would be the de­ci­sive break. “I looked round and Kelly was on my wheel,” re­called York. “We were about 50 me­tres off the back of the front group; I could have closed the gap, but I thought I wasn’t go­ing to take Kelly across, and waited for him to close it. But ei­ther he was only just good enough to get to me on the climb, and had no more, or he didn’t want to ride be­cause he had Stephen Roche in front. He ex­pected me to do it, but I wasn’t go­ing to kill my­self to get Kelly across.”

Demierre was reeled in on the de­scent and the quar­tet be­gan the fi­nal two laps 26 sec­onds clear. On the penul­ti­mate cir­cuit, the Swiss cracked first, fol­lowed by – far more sur­pris­ingly – Ar­gentin. Sud­denly, the Ital­ian plan fell apart. That left LeMond in front with Rupérez, a strong climber from So­ria, in the prov­ince of Castilla y León, who had won the Vuelta in 1980. Such was the Amer­i­can’s state of grace that he had the clar­ity of mind to test the Spa­niard on the first as­cent, be­fore putting in the killer at­tack to move clear on the fi­nal time up the Wartensee. “Noth­ing felt tough, not even drop­ping Rupérez. Ev­ery­thing went just the way I wanted, and I breezed across the line.”

Be­hind, Rupérez was swept up by an elite chas­ing group in­clud­ing Adrie van der Poel and Roche, who took sil­ver and bronze, the lat­ter Ire­land’s sec­ond World Cham­pi­onships medal in two years. A sign of the times, as was the fact that LeMond gained scant recog­ni­tion back home for his stel­lar ride. “My only dis­ap­point­ment was that the vic­tory was to­tally ig­nored by the Amer­i­can press and pub­lic,” he said. “Back home, hardly any­one heard of it. Maybe it got a lit­tle para­graph in some pa­pers, maybe not. At that time no­body in the US cared that an Amer­i­can had be­come world cham­pion.” The big­ger pic­ture mat­tered more though. LeMond had es­tab­lished him­self as one of the big­gest names in cy­cling, and the fol­low­ing three years would see him be­come a dom­i­nant force at the Tour de France. He’d win it three times, in 1986, 89 and 1990.

“I was 22 years old and it was as if I’d fi­nally made my mark in cy­cling,” LeMond said. “The truth is that I’d 10 times rather win the Tour de France than the World Cham­pi­onship, but some­how for pure hap­pi­ness that World Cham­pi­onship was un­touch­able.”

LeMond crossed the line alone and more than a minute ahead of the chasers

LeMond won few races in the rainbow jersey in ‘ 84, but he was third at the Tour

LeMond is lanked on the dais by Van der Poel, left, and Ire­land’s Stephen Roche

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