In July of 1986, Greg LeMond stunned the sporting world by becoming the first American to win the Tour de France, the world's pre-eminent bicycle race, defeating French cycling legend Bernard Hinault. Nine months later, LeMond lay in a hospital bed, his life in peril after a hunting accident, his career as a bicycle racer seemingly over. And yet, barely two years after this crisis, LeMond mounted a comeback.
The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France, refers to Mr. LeMond’s return to the top of the sport in 1989, two years after being shot and nearly killed in a hunting accident...The book also details the collision course of two enormously gifted cyclists, Mr. LeMond and France’s Laurent Fignon —also a former Tour champion making a comeback that year—from their eerily similar childhoods to their ultimate showdown on the final day of the most tightly fought Tour de France.
That blend of chaos, kindness and cruelty typifies the scenes that journalist de Visé brings to life in this sympathetic-verging-on-reverential retelling of LeMond’s trailblazing career (first American to enter the tour, first to win it) ... As a reporter, de Visé skates lightly over the objective facts of that ordeal. As an author in quest of his protagonist’s motivation, though, he subjects it to extreme torque: 'Greg found, in cycling, the ultimate distraction from his own demons, the pain of guilt and sorrow and humiliation that still roiled his brain from the months of [childhood] sexual abuse.' With The Comeback, LeMond appears to have finally dropped his demons.
'Quick quiz: Name an American bicycle racer.
Easy, Lance Armstrong. Name another one.
Uhhhh ….' It’s a shame that the only cyclist most Americans have heard of is a liar, a bully and a cheat, a man who sued those who told the truth about him and tried to ruin their lives ... The real hero, the name everyone should know, is Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour de France ... Daniel de Visé’s The Comeback is explicitly designed to elevate LeMond into the pantheon. It succeeds because LeMond does have an abundance of heroic qualities: he is a sexual-abuse survivor, a gifted athlete and a technical innovator, a modest man in an ego-driven sport who overcame anti-American prejudice and deceit from competitors and teammates, and a truth-teller who suffered greatly for speaking out against Armstrong.