A Greg’arious dinner with a legend

There is a well established theory which states that it is best to keep your heroes and idols at arms length and leave them on that pedestal that you once put them on. Imagine meeting him or her and turning out to be far from that person you idolised. You’ve seen them on the big screen, read and re-read everything that’s ever been wrote about them, but what are they really like in real life?

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Keen followers of my blogs and tweets will not be surprised to know that Greg LeMond was my childhood idol, for the uninitiated and to save you going on wiki, here is an edited synopsis as to why. Like most children I’ve always loved riding a bike. From the toddler tricycle on the garden path all the way to the wobbly freedom after the stabilisers have been removed on the big kids bike. Two things shaped my teenage years like no other, food and cycling.

Realising I was never going to be David Beckham in the football skills, cycling became my main sporting interest long before it became the UK’s most successful sport at a world level without the now household names of Chris Hoy and Vicky Pendleton. A British Tour winner was almost a pipe dream, yet now with the help of some lottery funding, we have two consecutive champions in Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.

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When I raced in the Welwyn track league back in the 90’s a young Laura Trott and her sister Emma would ride inside the track centre watching us. Last year I took our girls, now similar ages to Laura and Emma as they were back then, to see them both race past in the inaugural Women’s Tour of Britain.

IMG_4354Back in the 80’s things were quite different. There wasn’t much of a chance to watch my new favourite sport on TV. It was limited to a 30 minute Tour de France highlights show on Channel 4 every night at 6.30pm which included a minute of credits either side and 5 minutes of adverts in the middle, I always felt rather cheated. The calming voice of Phil Liggett would condense down several hours worth of action into a 20 minute segment.

At the age of 14 I had watched a few Tours however the ’89 edition had me truly gripped. The race lead and coveted maillot Jaune (yellow jersey) switched several times between the Frenchman Laurent Fignon and my cycling idol, America’s Greg LeMond, the first non-European winner in 1986 whom was considered extremely lucky to even be on the start line. In 1987, whilst out turkey shooting in the States, he was shot accidently by his brother in law, now that’s what you call family love! His body was peppered with a devastating payload of 60 pellets. LeMond’s injuries were near fatal and he was 15 minutes from bleeding to death, it was only the fact that a helicopter was available nearby that saved his life. Two years later, still with half of the pellets in his body and 3 in the lining of his heart, he made his comeback to the Tour.

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In a departure from the normal sprinters stage, the route organiser’s had planned a 24.5km time trial, an individual race against the clock for that year’s final stage. Fignon was leading the race by 50 seconds and it was his to lose however LeMond rode the race of his life. From the shadow of the chateau of Versailles to the cobbled Champs Elysee Boulevard, overturning the deficit and winning by a scant 8 seconds, the closest margin ever. Can you imagine after 3285 km of racing around the hexagon of France the difference was less than 100m on the road!

I was inspired, I had to race! I picked up top 10 places in regional races, but would have to wait several years for a top 3 and when it came so did the confidence and with that a few wins.  Over 12 years of senior racing cycling took me to all over the UK, competing in 3 national championships.

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So 26 years later and I read that Greg is speaking at the London bike show, as I’ve said before ‘if you don’t ask the answer will always be no’, so I seized the opportunity and emailed Kathy. “I imagine you are both really busy but if you have a spare evening while you are in London, it would be great to do dinner.” A few hours later the response was “that would be lovely”

If someone would have told me I would get to not just meet Greg and Kathy, but spend 4 hours in their company over dinner, I wouldn’t have believed you, but those who dream big. I chose La Chappelle a restaurant local to their hotel, but even that evening as Tracie and I awaited for them to arrive, I was nervous – would they show, could something go wrong?

Five minutes later they arrived, and then for four hours the world spun on its axis twice as quick, well it seemed that way for me! An evening I will never forget, I can’t condense four hours into one line but it was filled with talk of food, family and of course just a little bit of cycling!

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That pedestal has now got even higher, a nicer couple you would rarely meet

So 26 years to meet, then the next day we see each other again at the show. Greg and Kathy were naturally very busy and quite rightly the centre of attention, but there was still time for a few words and a man hug. I smiled as his words were left ringing in my ears as I left

“See you at the tour Hayden”

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Tour training, apart from getting some personal top tips from a three time winner, has been a bit slow mainly due to a busy work schedule.  I must say however Twitter keeps on giving, Umberto from Absolute 360 read my blog about my knee, got in touch and then sent me some of his excellent knee and calf supports to help aid recovery and reduce pain – if you want to learn more about his FIR products checkout his website on the link below.

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My Fundraising has reached the 40k mark, you guys truly are amazing.  If you would like to support the cause please click on my link. 100% of the donation goes direct to the CureLeukaemia charity-

https://www.justgiving.com/Hayden-Groves3

Training sponsors –

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~ by theboxterboy on March 14, 2015.

2 Responses to “A Greg’arious dinner with a legend”

  1. […] Greg Lemond was also probably his as a teen. A curious fact whilst Tracie and I had dinner with Greg and Kathy, Geoff was out in Austin meeting Lance for the first time. Challenging events have transpired over […]

  2. […] the adage- ‘If you don’t ask the answer will always be no !’The four of us had a Gregarious Dinner with naturally lots of talk about two wheels and […]

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