Greg LeMond helped raise America’s awareness of bicycling racing another notch beyond winning the Tour de France when he visited the White House for a private meeting with President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office.
Immediately upon leaving the White House, LeMond was confronted with a gaggle of reporters from the White House press corps, all of whom were likely seeing a professional bicycle racer for the first time. He took questions and spoke his replies into a thicket of microphones before him like any member of the Senate or Congress.
“I was shocked to be invited to the White House,” LeMond told reporters. “I didn’t think it would happen. I am happy that I got some recognition for cycling. I think that meeting with the President is my highest award. it is probably the biggest honor in my life to be invited to the White House.”
Accompanying LeMond were his wife, Kathy, and their son Geoffrey, age two and a half. LeMond presented President Reagan with a yellow jersey he had won as race leader in the Tour. President Reagan awarded LeMond with a jar of jelly beans, the President’s favorite candy, and two silver cups which were boxed and wrapped in gold paper embossed with the Presidential seal.
LeMond said the amount of media attention he has had since winning the Tour in Paris has been nearly overwhelming. He said he has been subjected to such a whirlwind of interviews and other engagements that he has had only five hours of sleep a night. “My life has just been nonstop,” he said with a weary smile.
His meeting with the President had to be postponed for a day. “I was feeling sick from exhaustion,” LeMond explained. Fortunately, it was not due to food poisoning. “It has been shocking to see the amount of press coverage I have had during the last few days. People even recognize me on the streets now because they’ve seen me on television.”
He said he was glad to see that his victory in France has helped cycling get more visibility in the United States. “American journalists and the American public don’t understand how important cycling is and how tough it is. All this publicity helps.”
When LeMond was asked if there was an ill will between him and five-time winner Bernard Hinault who had been his chief rival in the Tour despite being his teammate, LeMond smiled and simply shook is head. “We get along well,” he said, adding that Hinault was coming over to ride in the Coors Classic stage race which begins August 9 in San Francisco.
“There is a lot of pressure on me to ride well,” he said. “People saw me win the Tour de France and expect me to win the Coors Classic again like I did last year. Right now I need to spend some time just relaxing. I want to play golf for four or five days. I started playing golf a couple of years ago. I usually shoot 90 to 95 when I play.”
–Peter Nye for Velo-news