Spring too soon for LeMond to blossom

May 09, 1991|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Correspondent

WILMINGTON, Del. -- As expected of three-time Tour de France winner and the darling of American cycling, Greg LeMond was in demand during the kickoff festivities for the Tour Du Pont cycling race that begins here today.

Fans couldn't wait to be photographed with him, journalists couldn't wait to talk to him and one couldn't turn the page of the numerous cycling periodicals without seeing his face.

Despite the attention, don't expect to see the face of the sport's 30-year-old glamour boy crossing the finish line first when the Tour Du Pont -- including a second stage that concludes in Columbia, Md., on Saturday -- finishes here May 19.

While cycling fans in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia will get an opportunity to see LeMond pedaling the 1,100-mile course for the French-based Z team, the race will be nothing more than a tuneup for events later this summer.

"I'd love to have this race two weeks before the Tour de France or the week after -- then I would come in and say I'm going to win," said LeMond, one of a field of 112 men. "Throughout my career, this is usually my worst time to race. This is one of the

races I most enjoy, but, unfortunately, it's not the best time of the year for me."

That's been evident in LeMond's performances the past two years in this race, which was the Tour de Trump until Donald Trump dropped his sponsorship because of financial problems. In years during which he would later win the Tour de France, LeMond was 27th in this race in 1989 and -- after missing two months of training with a viral infection -- 78th among 87 riders last year.

"I feel better now, but unfortunately my results aren't better than last year," said LeMond, who entered last season 15 pounds overweight and admittedly out of shape. "Even though I looked so horrible last year, it was on par to where I've been at for my whole 10-year career."

LeMond says he is a victim of his success -- that's why his past two performances here have been criticized.

"Unfortunately, everyone sees me winning the Tour de France, and I've gone to such a different level that every race of mine is judged as a success or failure," LeMond said. "Usually, when I don't win, it's considered a failure.

"Most people, especially journalists in the United States, don't realize that I compete in about 130 different races a year," LeMond said. "The sport of cycling is so competitive that, if I dominated from February to October, it wouldn't be looked at as a competitive sport."

Today's first stage will be a 3.1-mile time trial prologue to determine which rider will wear the leader jersey for the first stage. The first stage covers a 106-mile course from Wilmington toward the Delaware Bay and back. The second stage will begin Saturday in Newark and run southwest through Reisterstown, Md., before ending in Columbia.

Tour Du Pont


Dates: May 9 to 19

Start and finish: Wilmington, Del.

Distance: Eleven stages totaling 1,100 miles and covering four states (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania). The second stage will finish Saturday on Little Patuxent Parkway at Columbia Mall.

Teams: 13 professional teams, three amateurs. Seven cyclists per team.

Prize money: Approximately $300,000 ($50,000 first prize).

TV: CBS will televise Sunday's third stage (2 to 3:30 p.m.) and the conclusion on May 19 (1:30 to 3 p.m.). ESPN will televise

30-minute wrap-up shows each night.

Defending champion: Mexico's Raul Alcala, of the Dutch-based PDM team, who is skipping this year's race for the Tour of Spain.

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