in a workshop In East Tennessee, Greg LeMond, the world’s best three-time Tour de France winner, is holding a piece of an unbreakable bicycle in his hands. The short length of the battered frame is not Look Unbreakable. But LeMond can’t stop talking about it. Like many other cyclists, he is a gear nerd. But unlike other cyclists, LeMond is developing its own made-from-scratch carbon fiber, which it plans to use to build—of all things, ebikes.
An all-carbon-fiber ebike is a crazy idea. But while Lemond may have faced many doubts over the course of his long career, I maintain an expression of humble enthusiasm in the face of potential madness. We’re standing in his R&D facility, a non-details warehouse down a quiet country road where we arrived – and how? – by bike. It’s where LeMond designed its new line of electric, all-carbon-fiber bicycles, sketched the production process on whiteboards, assembled prototype parts, and stress-tested the components themselves.
It’s late May, and the building is quiet. The prototyping machines he ordered are still shrunken and placed neatly along the walls. Things seem to be moving more slowly than in LeMond. Some of his employees are on leave, and he is not fully staffed anyway. That’s bad news for me, because I don’t have anyone to make eye contact as he ping-pong around the lab explaining the secret engineering inside what he calls Supercore.
Two carbon-fiber plates bisect the carbon-fiber tube forming a T. The interstices are filled with what Lemond tells me is a proprietary foam derived from a connection in the composite industry.
Carbon fiber bikes are incredibly strong and light but notorious for shattering, Especially as the frame ages. The foam theoretically helps distribute the force of an impact and holds the tube together in a crash; At a nearby table, Lemond is squeezing the foam into fork molds, like a pastry chef turned mad scientist. These bike-eclairs do not appear to be particularly strong or capable of bearing loads.
At 60, LeMond is larger and slightly heavier than the older boy, whose American appetite and cultural skepticism earned him the nickname “L’Américain” on the European pro racing circuit in the 1980s. You can still see that baby in his bright blue eyes and powerful lungs, which he uses to talk a mile a minute into, well, almost anything.
Today, that means he’s talking about LeMond Cycles and LeMond Carbon, two companies he founded here in Knoxville, Tennessee. LeMond Cycles shipped its first electric bike this year. Called the Prolog after first testing at the Tour de France, it’s a pretty lightweight electric commuter with lean-forward, aerodynamic geometry. At $4,500, it costly, And everything from the rear wheel dropout to the handlebar stem is made of carbon fiber.
I didn’t understand anything about Prolog. LeMond was an athlete of the highest caliber – why is he building an electric bike that doesn’t require any physical fitness? And why are bikes made of carbon fiber? Why would anyone risk riding a fragile plastic bike if you don’t have to shave off valuable ounces to win a race?
LeMond keeps the supercore for inspection, and I watch dings climb its surface. “I couldn’t even wait for the stress-testing machine to come here,” he says, rolling the beat-up frame in his hands. “So I hammered him into the field.” The Supercore will be part of the frame on a bike that is currently in the design stage, the main bar that connects the headset to the gearing system on the bottom bracket. He calls it “failure-proof,” and he strains to display his hands around it.
creak. Supercore breaks in two. Before he laughed, I stared at him gleefully. In fairness to Supercore, LeMond has a huge hand. It occurs to me then that, of all the bike materials that Lemond has chosen, it should come as no surprise that they have fixed on carbon fiber. It is a high-performance material, strong and versatile, but it can be surprisingly fragile. A lot like Lemond himself, actually.
Picture this: it is 1989 and the two cyclists swapped the leader’s yellow jersey almost every day in the final stages of the Tour de France. Laurent Fignon, the traditional French champion backed by a top-flight racing team, rides without a helmet, his blond hair waving in the wind. Then there’s Lemond, the young American rider with a doofy, aerodynamic helmet and U-shaped handlebar extensions that contrast oddly with the cow-horn bars used by nearly every other rider that day.
Two years before that, LeMond was shot in a horrific hunting accident, leaving lead pellets in his heart. After a slow, painstaking recovery, he once again feels like the champion that was universally acknowledged when he initially burst onto the European pro racing scene. star player, an ace. A normal man has VO . It happens2 Maximum—how efficiently your body can oxygenate your blood during exercise, and the best indicator of aerobic power—measures 40. Lance Armstrong’s is 85. Lemond’s is 92.5.
Its internal combustion engine is more than twice the size of yours. You can improve it a bit with exercise, but mostly you are just born with it.
A western farm kid who skied and rode horses, LeMond was also a tinkerer who never shies away from new technology. Not only did he pioneer the use of carbon-fiber frames, aero bars and aero helmets, but he was also one of the first professionals to run with a cycling computer, and the first to wear a heart rate monitor. Most notably and offensively to me, he was the first to pioneer those awesome aerodynamic racing sunglasses.
In fact, he’s wearing those awesome glasses because he’ll be known as the greatest comeback in Rocket’s history. You can still find the clip on YouTube. LeMond is stationary, his head rests on his hands, his body a missile pointing straight at the Champs-Elysée. Fignon stumbles while pedaling on the biggest gear, struggling in vain to beat his time. Commentator Phil Liggett shouts we’re about to see a Tour won by the narrowest margin. When Lemond crosses the finish line, his head is still down. Minutes later, when Fignon officially fails to beat Lemond’s time, it’s pandemonium. He has done what no one believed he could do—he lives by eight seconds of life-changing.
Sooner than one could have predicted, things start to go wrong. At the 1991 tour, LeMond realized something was off. He was in better shape than ever, but he was killing himself to keep up with the people he already knew He was not as strong as he was. He was the VO of his comrades. Saw2 max, chest capacity, and body weight and felt that their power output should not exceed that. Yet they were here, passing it over and over again.
After years of vague, rejected comments, LeMond finally said something in 2001 that no one could ignore. Looking back, it wasn’t even that explosive of something: that if Lance Armstrong was clear it would be a wonderful comeback after his battle with cancer, but if Armstrong was cheating, it would be the biggest deception. Armstrong, a superstar of fiery gas, burning with malice and pride, retaliated. Hammers fell hard on Lemond’s frayed frame.
He lost almost everything. He lost his star status – the press dubbed him a loudmouth, a troublemaker, a thorn in the side of cycling. His racing time lagged. His confidence got hurt. Trek, which had partnered with LeMond on a line of bicycles for 6 years, said their comments reflected badly on him and on LeMond; Lemond accused him of withdrawing support from his brand. His companions abandoned him. Lemond called this period “the 12 years of hell”. Perhaps the most famous betrayal was that of LeMond’s former partner, Floyd Landis, who faced a public doping trial in 2007. LeMond agreed to testify and, in a phone call months before the hearing, encouraged Landis to come clean, revealing through example that she had been sexually abused as a child and that the truth had been eating her up for decades. Was. Landis’ business manager learned of Lemond’s confession, and made an anonymous, lewd phone call to Lemond the evening before his testimony, in an apparent attempt to prevent him from appearing at Landis’ trial. During his testimony, Lemond publicly called the manager, and shared his history of sexual abuse on record.
Eventually he was acquitted. Landis was banned for doping and called on LeMond to apologize; LeMond took Trek to court for breach of contract. In 2010, Trek entered into a settlement with LeMond by paying $200,000 to 1in6, an advocacy nonprofit for men who have been victims of childhood sexual abuse by LeMond. In 2013, Armstrong admitted to doping throughout his career, telling Oprah Winfrey that his “legendary” story was “a big lie”.
LeMond is now the only American to win the Tour de France once again. But a frame can only be repaired so far. He is still struggling to regain his physical fitness. He has shoulder pain from a mountain biking accident. He has required a hip replacement due to a long-running road accident, and the pellets left in his heart make it difficult for him to maintain the effort required to regain his former level of fitness. He still wants to ride, and mentions a multi-day bike trip he wants to take with his son to Europe. “How are you going to do…