Racing With Greg LeMond in 1978

Over Christmas I drove down to Temecula to visit family and to reconnect with some friends. One of those friends is uber bike mechanic John Robertson (pictured above left in 2014 with Randy Antonio). Reserved and unassuming, these days John rides just to ride, but back in the late 70’s he was a serious about racing as Mario Cipollini is about hair gel. On the day after Christmas while on a 60 mile ride through the Mount Palomar foothills John related the following story that was just too good not to share:


Lemond racing in 1978.

I had been racing in Cat 1 road races for years and knew just about every racer in Southern California. In the spring of ’78 I went to a big race in Monterey that was held at the Laguna Seca raceway where I was competing against a lot of guys I didn’t know. Some of them I had heard of and others I hadn’t. It was a typical race until we were down to just two laps to go around the Laguna Seca track.

Bob Cook, an incredibly gifted climber and member of the national team, had already gone off the front and was so far ahead that we couldn’t even see him. No one went after him. I’m riding with the main group at the front of the race and we’ve all resigned ourselves to racing for second place. Greg LeMond is right next to me in the pack. I notice he’s not breathing hard as he methodically starts to look around the group into the faces of each rider. He looked at me first with those penetrating light blue eyes, and looked right through me. Then one by one he looked around at the rest of the group and sized everyone up. Then he launched an explosive attack and a few riders chased after him. The rest of us stuck together and dialed up the tempo with the hopes of catching the breakaway. We reeled in a couple of riders but never saw LeMond. I finished well off the podium.

After rolling through the finish line I went over to my friend, Steve Grossman and asked, ‘So how much did Bob win by?’ His response was, “Huh? No… LeMond. LeMond won by over a hundred yards. It wasn’t even close!” LeMond was just a junior, but he was racing with the elites. He was incredible.

If you haven’t watched or read Slaying the Badger, the story of Greg LeMond’s triumph over Bernard Hinault at the 1986 Tour de France, you owe it to yourself to check it out. The documentary film version is currently on Netflix and the book is available at good bookstores everywhere.