at West End Bikes last
night (shop co-owner Mark
Ontiveros in back).
(Photos © J. Maus)
Greg LeMond was in Portland last night to help raise awareness for the Echelon Gran Fondo event that takes place tomorrow in Hood River. The event was hosted by West End Bikes and several dozen people packed into the palatial store for beer, wine, munchies, and a chance to see a bona fide Great American Hero.
LeMond, now 50, was America’s first major bike racing celebrity. Between 1983 and 1990 he won two World Championships and three Tour de France titles.
Last night he shared some brief words, answered a few questions, and signed a bunch of autographs.
He opened his remarks with a good-spirited jab at Portland. “This is my first time in Portland in more than 10 years,” he said, “Now I live in the #1 city for cycling, which is Minneapolis. We just kicked your butt the last two years!” LeMond continued to say how amazed he was at how that #1 ranking (given to them by Bicycling Magazine, who has acknowledged it was more symbolic than substantive) led to increased investment in bike infrastructure and political respect in Minneapolis. “We have Portland to thank for that,” he said, “since you guys were leading the race for so many years.”
Thanks for that. I think.
“This is my first time in Portland in more than 10 years. Now I live in the #1 city for cycling, which is Minneapolis.”
— Greg LeMond
During the Q & A that followed, someone asked him for his thoughts on the impacts of doping in professional bike racing.
After attempting to jokingly the avoid the question by saying the industry is cleaning up by making bikes out of bamboo and such, he said, “It’s a touchy subject in the sport.”
“I want to see the sport get to where there’s a potential to grow and it’s not scandal after scandal after scandal,” he continued. “I think there’s a motivation both economically and I think we’ve got a whole new generation of riders who are actually saying, ‘You know, it’s not part of my culture and I don’t want to be part of that,’ which is a really good sign. The sport’s not going away. it’s not going to fade — but it will thrive if it can get rid of that really bad aspect of the sport.”
Afterwards, fans flocked around LeMond. One of them was Portlander Ben DuPree, who thrust out an official, white and rainbow-striped Campagnolo World Championships cap. “Mission accomplished!” he exclaimed after LeMond not only signed the hat for him but exchanged some friendly banter about riding as well.
“He’s such an inspiration,” said DuPree, who admitted LeMond was a bit before his time. “I grew up hearing about him and that got me turned on to other riders.” DuPree says that given the doping scandals so common on today’s professional bike racing circuit, LeMond represents a halcyon era he’d like to see return.
LeMond will rest up tonight before suiting up with several hundreds others for the Gran Fondo tomorrow.
Look as giddy as a kid up there, but that’s how I felt. Greg was very nice and humble toward fans like us out there, and he was really down-to-earth. Hat now has a place of honor in my office at home.
Great writeup Jonathan!
“We have Portland to thank for that,” he said, “since you guys were leading the race for so many years.”
“Thanks for that. I think.
Yup. If no other metro areas had stepped forward to give Portland chase in the “Best City for Bicycling” then Portland would get soft and flabby.
I grew up in Minneapolis — the infrastructure there kicks Portland’s patootie. Portland has done a great job of retrofitting a bunch of early 20th century road infrastructure for decent bicycle conditions on a shoestring budget, but the Twin Cities were already making great strides forward with bicycle infrastructure and policy in the 1980s.
Step up to the challenge, Portland!
And thanks for the friendly reminder, Greg.
America’s first modern bike racing celebrity….
Major Taylor and other track racers were bigger stars than any recent racer, Lance Armstrong almost certainly included.
Nice point, and if I am not mistaken Mr.Greg was an original contributor for the forward ( along with Arthur Ashe) in the 10speed press published biography of Major T. His sincere words were very,very thoughtful as i recall. Greg LOVES cycling.
Is it possible to report a bike story here without getting all butt hurt if the subject doesn’t fawn all over your precious adopted hometown of Portland? OMG! Other bigger, more economically and politically important cities are stealing OUR bike ideas and getting credit! Wahhhh!
Considering how bad people here are beating up on the Bike Gallery for their ad, I would say NO.
Class all the way.
GREAT time to shake hand of legend. thanks Portland and Greg and Fondo.. awesome