From cycling's peak to the ‘brink of death’ near Sacramento: LeMond's return to glory

Cyclist Greg LeMond of the United States is shown in action in the 15th stage of the Tour de France in town of Ocieres, in the French Alps, July 16, 1989.
Cyclist Greg LeMond of the United States is shown in action in the 15th stage of the Tour de France in town of Ocieres, in the French Alps, July 16, 1989. AP file

Daniel de Visé’s book tour is no Tour de France, but it has brought him all over the United States with his next stop on Saturday at the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis.

Approximately 40 miles east from there, Greg LeMond nearly lost his life, a year after becoming the first American to win the Tour de France.

LeMond, who lived in Rancho Murieta at the time, was accidentally shot during a hunting trip in Lincoln in 1987. That traumatic experience, and how he recovered to win the Tour de France in 1989 and '90, is the subject of “The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France,” which was published in early June.

“You don’t even know for sure that he’s going to live, let alone walk again, let alone ever climb back onto a bicycle and then it becomes this amazing story of him coming back from the brink of death to somehow re-emerge as a star of professional cycling,” de Visé said. “I think that comeback is sort of unprecedented in serious aerobic sports.

“There’s no one else like him who almost died and then came back to the top of a really physically grueling sport.”

De Visé’s third book also touches on LeMond overcoming childhood sexual abuse, becoming a superstar cyclist in a sport dominated by Europeans and his conflict with Lance Armstrong that lasted over a decade. They clashed over allegations that the now-disgraced cyclist used performance-enhancing drugs.

“Think of it as a stage in the Tour de France that transverses four or five hook category peaks,” de Visé said. “Peaks so high they’re beyond characterization. That’s Greg LeMond’s life.”

De Visé, who spent three years working on the book, grew up going to bicycle races in the summer with his family in Illinois and rooting for LeMond on TV with his dad.

“This book and the decision to spend two-three years of my life thinking about Greg LeMond and people of his era was basically born of my love for bicycle racing when I was a kid,” de Visé said. “I grew up in a household where bicycling was a passion and competitive bicycle racing was a passion.”

Since the release of the book, de Visé – who raced to get “The Comeback” finished before this year’s Tour de France begins on Saturday – has visited Washington, D.C., Virginia, Washington, Colorado and Nevada during his book tour and has an estimated 10 cities in 11 days planned for California.

These cities include Berkeley, Santa Rosa, Danville, Campbell and next up is Davis at 303 3rd St. in Central Park.

Admission to this event is free and participants will be able to ask de Visé questions after he reads excerpts from the book and signs copies at 2 p.m., according to a U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame news release.

'The Comeback'

What: Author Daniel de Visé discusses "The Comeback," the story of Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour de France who a year later nearly died when shot near Sacramento.

Where: U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, 303 3rd St., Davis

When: Saturday, 2-3 p.m.

Admission: Free