If U.S. Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) has his way, American cyclist Greg LeMond will join Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens as holders of a Congressional Gold Medal.
“Greg LeMond is an American icon, a sports hero and probably one of, if not the greatest American bicyclist ever to wake up and ride a bike. Maybe he’s the greatest athlete, considering everything that he did,” Thompson said in early November in the St. Helena Star offices.
LeMond, who starting riding in 1975 at the age of 14, twice won the Road Race World Championships and won the multiple-stage Tour de France three times, in 1986, 1989 and 1990. Overall, he won 22 titles.
Thompson said LeMond was the first American to ride on an international team, the first American to win major races in Europe and “the first and only American to win the Tour de France.” American Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times but was later stripped of the titles because of his use of illegal drugs.
According to author Daniel de Vise, LeMond never used drugs and was outspoken in criticizing riders who did, including Armstrong. De Vise wrote the comprehensive book about LeMond called “The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling and a Legendary Tour de France,” published in 2018.
Thompson’s bill HR3589 passed the U.S. House of Representatives in September, with 301 mostly Democratic co-sponsors, including 45 from California. The Senate version of the bill is now in the U.S. Senate, where it was read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. By law, it will come up for a vote when two-thirds of the senators support it. If the Senate approves it, the bill will go to the president for his signature.
Kyrsten Sinema, U.S. senior senator from Arizona, is co-sponsor of the bill in the Senate. According to Congress.gov, it has 17 co-sponsors, including five who agreed to co-sponsor it on Nov. 21.
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LeMond’s professional cycling career was from 1981 to 1994. Thompson said LeMond “fought back from all kinds of adversity to do it; everything from being molested as a child, being shot (in the back with a shotgun during a hunting trip) as a young adult, being attacked from every competing nationality in the Tour de France, including from his own teammates,” yet he still won the Tour de France three times.
During his career, LeMond “maintained the highest standards of healthy athletics and clean competition,” Thompson said in a September news release. “His career embodied some of our most cherished values – selflessness, perseverance, excellence and sportsmanship – and LeMond has spent his life supporting children and young people, ensuring many others can experience the joy of cycling.”
In September, LeMond said he’s truly humbled that the U.S. House has recognized his career. “Cycling changed my life for the better and I’ve been proud to help bring this great sport to so many across our nation,” he said.
After leaving the sport, LeMond and his wife, Kathy, became involved in numerous nonprofit causes, including healthy sport, assisting victims of sexual abuse and various childhood illnesses.
The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the highest civilian awards in the nation and seeks to honor those “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement,” according to Thompson’s news release.
Rotary Ride for Veterans
Thompson is an avid cyclist, who competes in the annual Cycle for Sight and Rotary Ride for Veterans, sponsored by the Napa Rotary Club, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2020. The ride will be held Saturday, April 18, and registration is now open at cycle4sight.com.