Greg LeMond duked it out with Laurent Fignon on the cols and cobblestones of France during my honeymoon in July 1989, and his glorious come-from-behind victory in the final stage time trial into Paris was nothing short of breathtaking.
Now my breath has been completely taken away by the recent announcement that Trek is ending its 13-year licensing agreement with the LeMond bicycle brand.
Greg is a fighter, and his brand will live on. Lance Armstrong is also a fighter. Trek president John Burke wouldn’t be at the helm of one of the world’s largest bike companies if he wasn’t a fighter. Several people in the bike industry have told me about Armstrong’s selfish ambition for money, and his laser-like focus on getting things done his way. Like him or not, he gets results.
But what I find troubling is, when asked by media during the post-press conference interview, Burke skirted the issue of doping. A reporter specifically asked “isn’t doping a much bigger issue than Trek and the LeMond bicycle brand?” I have to wonder, isn’t doping a much, much bigger issue than any individual or company? Should we support Greg LeMond’s stance on doping, ignore both LeMond and Lance Armstrong’s legal trail of failed relationships, or just write it off as selfish business ambitions on the part of Trek and LeMond?
I spent the past two hours poring over the legal documents filed by Trek and LeMond, and it’s staggering how much legalese was written into the working relationship began in the summer of 1995. Yes, Trek has a successful history of rescuing and resuscitating failing bike brands (Gary Fisher, Bontrager, Klein, Rolf Wheels, Icon Components, LeMond). Trek’s savvy boutique-brand building have paid off handsomely for the Waterloo, Wisconsin-based company, who’s enjoying a reported US$700 million in annual sales. Even the LeMond brand was bringing in a reported US$15 million a year at its peak.
But the troubling “he said, she said” aspect of today’s announcement is, in my opinion, a detriment to our industry. It’s quite clear that, despite Burke’s claims that Armstrong has no input whatsoever about Trek’s business interests or decisions, that there’s no room for two American Tour de France champions under one bicycle company umbrella. In Lance’s world, there’s room for just one, and that one has a building named after him on the Nike campus. It appears that the folks at Trek had to make a choice between a squeaky wheel or a demigod.
What will be the outcome of this ceremonial split? Will Trek’s fortunes continue to soar, or will they come off as being the bully? There are always two sides to every story, so it will certainly be interesting to see if the truth will ever be presented. Armstrong, the runner, still appears to have the fire and drive to succeed, and his foundation benefits as a result. LeMond still has cachet and credibility, so maybe his brand will live on and soar again some day.
As the Good Book says, “the truth shall set you free.” Hang on, everyone – I have a feeling some truths shall present themselves in due time.
BikeRadar wants to know what you think of this announcement and its consequences. Is doping in cycling insurmountable? Can one person, be it Greg LeMond or Lance Armstrong, really make a difference? Give your input below or go to our BikeRadar forums.