LeMond's Mental Toughness

Greg lost 10 pounds in the first 10 days of his recuperation. His longest workout during that period was a 20-foot walk. Not until six weeks after his release from the hospital did he mount a bike. He started at 5 kilometers and went a little farther in each subsequent ride. Two months after the accident, Greg's blood volume had finally returned to normal.

By September, Greg was racing again. His results were less than spectacular (he finished 44th in the Tour of Ireland), but this was only to be expected at such an early stage in his return to competition. The point of mixing it up in these late-season events was merely to get his racing legs back and set himself up for an ascension to top form in the 1988 season. Alarmingly, though, Greg's form was no better in November than it had been two months earlier. He abandoned his last event of the season, the Tour of Mexico, because he couldn't get up the hills.

Greg's first race of 1988, the Ruta del Sol in Spain, didn't go any better. This time his teammates had to push him—literally, with hands placed on the small of his back—up the climbs. A few weeks later, Greg crashed again. He suffered only a minor injury to a muscle in his right lower leg, but when he jumped back into training too aggressively after two weeks off the bike, the problem became chronic. Instead of riding the Tour de France in July, he got an operation.

By the fall, Greg was racing once more, but poorly, and he was straining to maintain his customary rosy outlook. "I'm feeling better but starting over again," he told the New York Times. "I'm always starting over."

Greg's lack of results caused his relationship with his new employer, the PDM team, to sour. The tension became a breach when team management pressured their struggling star rider to receive injections of testosterone, a banned performance enhancer, and he refused. In one form or another, doping had always been a part of cycling, but in 1988 it was on the brink of getting out of control. The previous year, Laurent Fignon had failed a drug test for amphetamines. Weeks later, during that year's Tour de France, Spaniard Pedro Delgado was caught with a steroid masking agent in his system but was allowed to complete the race—which he won—because the substance had not yet been formally banned. Greg believed, perhaps naively, that such cheating was rare, but it was becoming increasingly common, and the methods more sophisticated.

After Greg's break with PDM, his lawyer, Ron Stanko, told a Los Angeles Times reporter, "I explained to them that we were not interested in using chemicals to improve performances. That is Greg's position, 100 percent." This stance was based not only on Greg's distaste for cheating but also on his conviction that he was talented enough to win without shortcuts. After all, he had done it before.

On New Year's Eve, 1988, Greg signed with a new team, ADR. He had previously derided ADR as second rate, claiming its roster was too weak to support a Tour de France contender. But it was now the only team willing to compensate him as a still-young past Tour winner rather than as a cyclist whose own recent performances were second rate.

Greg opened the 1989 season with some promising results, finishing sixth overall in the Tirreno-Adriatico race in Italy and taking second place in a stage of the Criterium Internationale. But the promise of these performances was not fulfilled. In May, Greg competed in the inaugural Tour de Trump in the United States, an event that, owing to its namesake's knack for spectacle, attracted extraordinary public attention by the standards of American bicycle racing. It would have been an ideal showcase for the talents of the first American winner of the Tour de France—if only he hadn't finished 27th.

The next stop for Greg and his ADR teammates was the Giro d'Italia, a three-week "Grand Tour" like the Tour de France. Greg continued to feel not quite right on the bike, and it showed in his results. On the very first big climb of the race, he lost 8 minutes to the leaders. As he slid farther and farther behind in the succeeding days, Greg began to despair. After one stage, he sat on his bed in a crummy hotel room and wept, bitterness and frustration pouring out of him like steam from a burst pipe. He told his roommate, Johan Lammerts, that he was finished as a cyclist. He could not continue to suffer so much to achieve so little in the shadow of what he once was. It was time to quit and move on.

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