Lemond crashes Armstrong press conference

dispatch1 Greg Lemond looking intenseGreg Lemond looking pensive Greg Lemond looking deflated
Catlin, Armstrong and Phinney

This morning’s press conference with Lance Armstrong, Don Catlin and Taylor Phinney took an unexpected turn when Greg Lemond, seated in the front row (two seats to my left) opened the question period with a hardball aimed straight at Lance. The tension broke over the room like a giant wave as all cameras swung in the direction of the three time and first American Tour winner.

Sitting so close I could reach out and touch him, I watched him breathing nervously as he attempted to articulate his long-held frustration into a question ostensibly directed at Don Catlin, who will head up Lance’s personal doping control program, but clearly it was targeted at Lance. To his credit it was Lance, and not some conference handler that recognized Lemond with the first question. Given their personal history the topic couldn’t have come as any surprise.

Lemond rambled a bit in the delivery but essentially he made the argument that physiological factors (oxygen uptake) were the true baseline and indicator of athletic performance (or performance enhancement). I was struck by his large hands, hands that look like they’ve done a lot of manual work; his big fingers fidgeted with his phone which seemed to be recording the exchange.

Catlin, who I spoke to briefly after the throng had dispersed, confirmed he hadn’t been able to follow Lemond’s argument. In any event, after letting Lemond speak for two or three minutes, Lance cut things off. “Greg, we’re not going to go negative here”

Lemond incredulously uttered something like a “huh” at the closure. I’ll give him his due, it took guts to ask the question. His face flushed, eyes turned down, he could do nothing but sit as Lance recognized the next question. It was not a follow up.

Lemond recording the exchange on his phone

Update: A little later in the morning I discovered that Lance and his manager had been informed that Greg planned to attend and wanted to ask a question. It's a positive sign that Lance didn't attempt to duck the confrontation and politely recognized Greg Lemond. It's quite clear that the two winners of cycling's most pretigious race can't reach an understanding, and even if we'd sat there for weeks they couldn't have agreed. Ironically, Taylor Phinney who represents a bright future for American cycling sat watching the spectacle.

4 Responses to Lemond crashes Armstrong press conference

  1. BR says:

    Wow – I sat through a Q&A session (early 90′s at Stanford) once where Greg was the guest of honor. I recall that he struggled to be clear and concise. We all excused his lack of public speaking polish and focused more his palmares. Greg and Lance both share being targets for ASO and breaking traditions that were closely guarded and they have to share the podium post retirement. I would have loved to have been there to see these champions together despite the friction. I rode with a person that competed against Greg when he was a Nor Cal Junior and he was known as a serious and extremely intense person. I sense the same in Lance.

  2. TimC says:

    Terrific sequence of shots of Lemond. And I love that phone shot, it really captures the tension. Great report, Michael.

  3. Rich says:

    Greg Lemond characterizes the era in which I first fell in love with cycling as a sport rather than a means of transportation or simply having fun. Riders like Millar, Yates, Peiper and Lemond all spring to mind whenever I recall summers glued to the box – my old man on the rivet of the armchair tapping his feet on the floor in time with the prevailing on-screen cadence.

    To me, as a young kid growing up in the far north of England, to have an English speaker win the greatest sporting event on the planet was my ‘man on the moon moment’. Never forget it.

    To my mind, Greg Lemond is still the Don.

  4. Matthew says:

    GL, in my mind, is struggling – perhaps awkwardly – to find his role in the clean up. He strikes me as very much a Don Quixote figure; he means well, but hasn’t exactly figured out how to be entirely productive in the fight against PEDs.