Comeback kid

Daniel de Visé

Maryland-based journalist and author Daniel de Visé’s new book is The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France, a biography of the champion cyclist, who grew up in Northern Nevada. The author will present readings from the book at Sundance Books and Music, 121 California Ave., on July 5 at 6:30 p.m.

Why write a book about Greg LeMond?

Well, it occurred to me that he’s not nearly so well known—either his name or his feats—as he should be, considering that he’s one of our all-time great athletes. You know, he’s a winner of Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year. He is the only American to have won the Tour [de France], which a lot of people think is the most grueling athletic event of all.

Can you describe his Northern Nevada connection?

It’s absolutely essential to his story. … They moved to Nevada when Greg was a little boy,. … They lived for a while in Incline Village, and then they moved to … Washoe Lake. So, Greg … grew up there, basically, and went from fishing and hiking and horseback riding to skiing, and he was thinking about becoming a hotdog skier. But then one winter there in Reno, it didn’t snow—I think that was the winter of ’75-’76—and because it didn’t snow, Greg and his father, Bob, fell back on their cross-training sport, which was cycling, and Greg just fell in love with it and never looked back.

There was a lot of local legend about him when I was kid but it seems like that fell off the radar.

There just ought to be a Greg LeMond Boulevard there. If there’s not, there should be. Or a Greg LeMond Highway or something—or for god’s sake, a bike path! He is the top dog in American bicycle racing in the modern era. There’s nobody, no one else, and it all started there. And he remained there through high school. It was a great place to train as a cyclist. You’ve got your grades. You’ve got your climbs. You’ve got your wind. You’ve got your weather. All the stuff you get in Europe, you get in the Washoe Valley, so it was an ideal place to be based as a cyclist. … This is a biography of Greg, but it’s also a work of narrative nonfiction, like Seabiscuit or The Boys in the Boat. … I wrote it to read like a novel, and it centers on the 1989 Tour de France, which a lot of people think is the greatest bicycle race in history. That was the one that Greg won by 8 seconds, which is the closest finish in the history of the tour, over a Frenchman named Laurent Fignon. That achievement is all the more stunning because Greg had almost died two years earlier of an accidental shooting in California. So the book pivots on that race. And it’s also a biography of Greg and it’s also, to a lesser extent, a biography of Fignon, because you have to know the guy he beat. … As far as interviews and access, I spent a lot of time on the phone to Bob LeMond in Reno, and Greg’s sisters, Kathy and Karen, who I think both still live in the Reno area. I spent a lot of time on the phone with Roland Della Santa, the great bicycle craftsman who lives in Reno. I spent a lot of time also on the phone with Cliff Young, a local attorney there, who was kind of Greg’s first training partner, and one of his mentors who led him into the cycling scene. I did a lot of research on the Reno Wheelmen, a legendary cycle group. … A lot of telephone calls to 775.