DEAR GREG LEMOND,

Bicycling (South Africa) - - ASK - TODD RICHARDS is a cy­clist from Maine, US. Amer­i­can rider GREG LEMOND won the Tour de France in 1986, 1989, and 1990.

THE SPRING AND sum­mer of 1989 were a ter­ri­ble time for me. I had fallen into a deep de­pres­sion. I should have been com­ing off one of the best win­ters of my life, ski bum­ming after col­lege. But on Valen­tine’s Day, two friends and I were caught in an avalanche, cas­cad­ing down 600 ver­ti­cal me­tres. I was the only sur­vivor.

A few weeks later, just get­ting out of bed was an ac­com­plish­ment. My body had nearly re­cov­ered from its in­juries, but my mind was shat­tered from PTSD and sur­vivor’s guilt. The world be­yond my bed­room walls be­came too much for me. Ven­tur­ing out­side grew dif­fi­cult, then no longer pos­si­ble. I slept a lot. I ate a lot. I drank a lot. TV pro­vided a dis­trac­tion, and the 1989 Tour de France was aired daily that July. I was fas­ci­nated to learn about your cycling past – back­stab­bing team­mates, com­peti­tors’ sab­o­tage, and your own near- death ex­pe­ri­ence from a shot­gun – and mes­merised by the suf­fer­ing you en­dured while com­pet­ing in the Tour it­self. Your strug­gles were broad­cast for the world to see, and I felt less lonely be­cause of it. I was no longer the only one in the room whose life had been up­ended.

When you won the fi­nal stage, and the over­all vic­tory, I cried. I cried out of joy, out of cel­e­bra­tion, be­cause watch­ing you in that race proved to me that hard work and de­ter­mi­na­tion could ac­com­plish any­thing. It was a life­sav­ing light at the end of my very long, very dark tun­nel. I got off the couch. I bought a bike. At the last stage of the 1990 Tour de Trump I forged press cre­den­tials with the hope of meet­ing you. We didn’t get a chance to talk, but after the an­nouncer called you to the start­ing line, I man­aged to get in front of the group of pho­tog­ra­phers and hand you my 1990 Bicycling cal­en­dar fea­tur­ing your im­age. You au­to­graphed it for me. It hangs framed on my wall.

It’s been al­most 30 years. I still ride my bike nearly ev­ery sin­gle day.

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