DEAR GREG LEMOND,
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.