That might even include racing for a new team. Last week LeMond admitted he was considering an offer from Hinault's La Vie Claire team, but said he wouldn't make an announcement about it until later this year.
Meanwhile, with Kathy and Geoffrey; with cheeseburgers and peanut butter on demand; with a new Mercedes and another one on order; with adoring neighbors (the paint's off the windows, but the finish line still shows faintly on the street); with an expensive home in Sacramento and investment properties there and in Reno; with a hefty disability insurance policy and money in the bank and all the bikes he can burn—LeMond's life is good indeed.
He may or may not be serious about changing teams, but for now, LeMond's base pay from Renault-Elf-Gitane is in "oh, six figures," LeMond says self-consciously. Most estimates put it at $200,000 or more a year. His contract also provides the rent for his house in Kortrijk (or wherever in Europe he might choose to live), eight round-trip plane tickets a year to the States, a credit card that provides free Elf gas and products anywhere in France (since Kortrijk is close to the border, the LeMonds can nip over and fill the tanks), plus a $25,000 bonus for each major victory, up to three races a year. LeMond keeps all money from appearances and endorsements and most of his considerable purses. He shares some of the latter with the domestiques on the 18-man Renault team, those worker-racers who provide strategic drafting support to help the stars win. But, wait. There's more.
The contract also provides LeMond with two free Renault cars each year, one for his home in Europe and one for the States—"I've got a Jeep Wagoneer in California," LeMond says, "and I've got this wagon here. I can pick any model I want except the top of the line luxury sedan. But heck, I suppose they'd even give me one of those if I really insisted on it."
One measure of the regard in which LeMond is held is that Renault officials swallow hard and manfully overlook that he buzzes around Europe in a $45,000 Mercedes. The contract is said to run through 1985, at which time it will be negotiated upward. If LeMond is still with Renault, that is.
Viewed from the U.S., it's hard for many folks to understand such superstar status and the remuneration that comes with it in a sport that draws such little interest here. Kathy LeMond comes from La Crosse, Wis., where the reaction is typical. "When we're there visiting in the off-season," she says, "some of my old school friends will say, 'Oh, you're married to a bicycle racer. A bike racer? Poor dear girl. How much money does he make?' And I always ask them, 'Well, how much money does your husband make at 23?' They just can't grasp how insanely popular this sport is."
And now Greg, Kathy, Geoffrey and some friends pile into the car and dash off to Holland, to a village called Woerden, where there'll be an evening criterium. It'll be a 60-miler, 71 laps around the town square, before a paying crowd of 35,000 or so delirious fans. LeMond has been training hard, in Belgium and in the Swiss mountains, riding six hours a day, some 55 miles in the morning and 60 in the evening. Many of his workouts around Kortrijk are done at top speed behind a pacing motorbike. "I'm like a dope addict," he says. "If I don't train hard, I get withdrawal pains." This morning he has done 50 miles or so, and the evening race will be strictly for further conditioning. Well, almost.
"It works like this," says Kathy. "The promoter pays appearance money to the better-known pros, as much as $5,000 for the star of the show. It's nice, of course, but it's a shame in a way that Greg and Phil Anderson can't ride together in these things—the promoter usually can't afford more than one top star." The big-time racers, in turn, sometimes allow the hometown favorite to win—so that the locals can forever proudly point to good old whoozis, who beat the famous Greg LeMoooonnnnd, or whomever. It's a fine European tradition, recognized but unspoken, that keeps everybody happy. Sometimes the hometown favorite wins anyway, supported as he often is by a team of riders while the star usually goes it alone.
In the main event at Woerden, LeMond rides easily in the pack. He's cranking along at his normal racing pace, in which he instinctively moves his legs at 90 revolutions per minute; it's a pace he can hold for endless hours. At this speed his heart is running 130 beats a minute, normal for the pace; in hard sprints, it surges up to 170 or so. But with just 11 laps to go, he has to sing for his supper, in a manner of speaking. He suddenly wheels toward the lead, with no drafting help. LeMoooonnnnd is in third! Then LeMond is in second. LeMond takes the lead! The crowd goes absolutely bonkers. In the stands, Kathy sits relaxed, with Geoffrey bundled in her lap. She isn't watching the race at the moment; her friends stand in front of her, forming a tight barricade so she can nurse the baby in a semblance of privacy. And the race ends in bedlam: LeMoooonnnd finishes fifth.
The crowd swirls around the hometown rider who won. LeMond graciously congratulates him. Adoring fans surround Greg, hands reaching out, touching and patting him. And this pleasant youngster looks up into the stands and grins at his wife. He could only be an American kid at this moment, ingenuous and open, fresh-faced and with not too much cynicism in him yet—happy with his princely role in European biking. He mouths the words toward Kathy: Très bon! says Greg LeMoooonnnnd.