LeMond wins race and fans' hearts U.S. star clinches Tour Du Pont victory

May 18, 1992|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- By the time Greg LeMond left the start house for the final leg of the Tour Du Pont, a crowd estimated near 100,000 had lined the streets.

From the start at RFK Stadium to Capitol Hill to Rock Creek Park and back, people jockeyed for position. They yelled LeMond's name. They waved and clapped their encouragement as he strained to pedal his bike faster than anyone else along the rough, 14-mile course on his way to finish line.

Everyone had come to see LeMond, this country's greatest cyclist. They had come to see him win in America, to see him take his first major stage race anywhere since the 1990 Tour de France.

And when he did, when he had crossed the finish line in 29 minutes, 59 seconds, the third-best time of the day, to wrap up the overall title with 20 seconds to spare, they mobbed him.

They blew kisses from viewing stands. They crowded around his shaking, sweating body. Little girls in curls screamed his name, and grown men in sports shirts reached out to pat his shoulders.

They lifted his bike above the crowd and passed it out of the winner's circle, and then they passed in a chair the same way, so LeMond could sit down, because he could no longer stand.

"I'm so happy to have this victory," LeMond said much later, after celebrating with champagne and flowers, after escaping the crowd and having his legs rubbed down. "I haven't won anywhere in America since 1985, and I'm not going to race forever. So this makes me very happy."

The overcast day had started with LeMond holding a 10-second lead over his Z teammate, Atle Kvalsvoll, and 14 seconds over Motorola's Phil Anderson.

When it was over, LeMond was the overall champion, finishing the 11-stage, 1,006-mile race in 44:27:43. Kvalsvoll was second for the third straight year, 20 seconds behind, and Coors Light's Stephen Swart was third, 28 seconds back.

"It is OK to be second this year," said Kvalsvoll. "Last year, losing to [Erik] Breukink made me sick, but losing to Greg is not losing. I feel my team still won."

The Tour Du Pont was LeMond's to win or lose in this last race against the clock. LeMond said he knew it, too.

"I felt the pressure," he said, still smiling. "I was very nervous. I hadn't come into this race expecting to win. I thought Atle would win. I thought I really didn't have a chance because of the Wintergreen Mountain climb. But my teammates won me this race."

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