FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — It will be the “biggest honor” of Greg LeMond‘s career – which includes three Tour de France titles – to receive the United States Congressional Gold Medal.
The bill was summited by Californian Congressman Mike Thompson “to award a Congressional Gold Medal to LeMond in recognition of his service to the United States as an athlete, activist, role model, and community leader.” It still must pass the U.S. Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump.
For LeMond, winner of the Tour in 1986, 1989, and 1990, it would be one of his biggest achievements.
“Well, it’s funny because Congressman Mike Thompson has been trying to get hold of me and I’m like, ‘I don’t deserve that, come on!’ That’s for war veterans. And they have the civilian side, but I kind of avoided it, thinking it’d go away, but he wouldn’t stop. So I finally got back to him,” LeMond told VeloNews.
“Really, I don’t take well getting awards. He really pushed for this and it’s a really great honor, it might be one of the best biggest honors for my career. For sure it is because it’s something that’s not given out to cyclists ever. And it’s a very small list of people who have actually received a Congressional Medal of Honor, and so I’m flattered, really flattered.”
The list of winners starts with George Washington, the first U.S. President, and includes pilot Charles Lindbergh, inventor Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, and activist Rosa Parks.
“Greg has not only reached the pinnacle of international sport, but has devoted his time and resources to assisting his fellow athletes,” reads the text for the Senate. “Greg has demonstrated the commitment to excellence, generosity, community, and tenacity that makes him an example for all to follow.”
LeMond made history as the first American to win the Tour in 1986, when he was 25 years old. He fought back from a turkey hunting accident, which required surgery to remove 40 shotgun pellets from his abdomen, and won the Tour again in 1989 and 1990.
He also won the 1983 and 1989 world championships road race titles.
Last month, the UCI cycling governing body awarded him with the President’s Trophy to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his historical 1989 Tour de France and worlds double, and “to give wider recognition to a champion for his exceptional career.” He was called on stage at the event in Guilin, China, another time to help award current world champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo).
“I think it was great to meet Mads Pedersen, who is 22, the same age I was when I won the world championships,” LeMond said. “I was a pioneer going to Europe, and now we’re racing in China, Malaysia, Australia. It seems like when you’re in America, it seems like road riding is kind of fading because now it’s gravel. But when you see it globally, it’s still growing.
“People are passionate about it. I think it’s really interesting to see all these young riders: Mads Pederson, 22. And then you got Remco Evenepoel, 19 and Mathieu Van der Poel, and this immense amount of talent coming out at a very young age. So the next five to 10 years is going to be really interesting. There’s going to be a lot of the top champions toppled soon.”
LeMond criticized the governing body during the last decade during the time of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal that revealed some levels of corruption at the UCI.
“You know in the past I’ve called UCI corrupt but it was really certain people, not the whole group. In sport, there’s a lot of people who are volunteers, they’re people who commit their lives to cycling.
“I think there’s a good change. There seems to be a new energy at the UCI. This year at the worlds, one of the most exciting events was the team time trial relay race. I think it’s great, it puts women front and center with the men. If it gets to be an Olympic sport, it’s going to be a very exciting one. I think it’s modernizing the sport. And I think it’s good. It brings more people into it and makes it more inclusive.”