No more than a couple of years ago, you'd have been forgiven for thinking that Greg LeMond had fallen out of love with cycling. Over several years and in any number of intricate ways, the sport that made LeMond helped edge him closer to the brink of despair. For a time, his deep crisis of faith in cycling was the mirror image of a personal malaise that saw his marriage almost fall apart, his health suffer and his lust for life dwindle.
Ask LeMond about his cycling or his life today and he'll tell you that both have come full circle. Inspired by his son Geoffrey's new-found passion for his old day job, LeMond has, by his own admission, never had more fun riding his bike.
During our visit, when we tell him that, given the indifferent weather, we won't force him out on a ride, he looks at us like a kid who's heard that Christmas has just been cancelled. "No, please, I want to ride. I love riding," he says with eyes twice their usual size.
Our two hours combing the tree-lined, rolling roads around LeMond HQ will be the perfect opportunity to witness up close just how great that love is. They'll also give LeMond a chance to outline his radical theories on training and physiology, set us right about why he retired in 1994, and also introduce us to the curious charms of a city about which novelist Stephen Brust once said, "Minneapolis has two seasons: road removal and snow repair."
Procycling: Nice bike [referring to the 2006 LeMond Tête de Course Greg has loaned Procycling's journo for the ride].
Greg LeMond: This one [the 2007 model] is even better.
Procycling: So what's the usual pace for your training rides these days?
GL: Lately I've been riding pretty fast. I train very intensively – it's better for your health. Last week I must have been averaging 24mph. But I look at the number of watts I'm producing more than anything else. I'm really into quality over quantity. Adrie Van Diemen was my guide on that.
If someone is starting out and wants to use cycling just to get fit and lose weight, I'd rather see them doing some weight training and bike sessions of no more than an hour with some sprints of around 20 seconds. That's going to build muscular strength and the extra muscle mass will speed up their metabolic rate and improve fat burning potential. By sticking to sessions of no more than an hour, they also keep levels of the stress hormone cortisol down, which in turn helps to keep appetite under control.
Procycling: Do you think you'd train differently now if you were still a pro?
GL: My legs don't feel good today. I was up at midnight last night doing intervals on my home trainer. But yeah, I was always one for quality over quantity.
That said, having worked with SRM meters for a while now I'd definitely do more intervals. I'm not even talking anaerobic intervals. It might be just 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off for 30 minutes. I'm a big believer – and I think physiological studies back me up on this – that there's no reason not to start with high intensity right away, because it's not intensity that tires you out, it's volume.
As a pro, 90 per cent of your racing is road racing and if you look at your SRM, there's not even 10 minutes when you're sustaining a steady, flat wattage. It's always speed up, slow down, speed up, slow down, and that's what you want to train like most of the time. I don't believe there's any use whatsoever in going out for seven hours and riding at a steady pace.
The rest of the interview, and much more, is in the January 2008 edition of Procycling, which is guest-edited by Greg LeMond. Follow this link for subscription details.
© BikeRadar 2008