Somehow there is a tendency to root for the underdog. Somehow, at least I, am most of the time looking at the Tour de France and waiting, in vain, for the favorite to collapse. The time that the one I am rooting for is coming from behind and snatches victory is extremely rare. It did happen though in 1989 with the most dramatic conclusion of the tour ever.
By exception, the last stage of the tour was a time trial, not a normal stage. We went into the time trial with Laurent Fignon as the number one with a 50 second lead on Greg Lemond. Fignon was a great time trialer, but had lost around half a minute to Lemond in similar trials earlier. So for the fans of Lemond (I was one of them) there was a glint of hope.
Greg was not just coming from behind in this stage, he was also coming from behind after having been seriously hurt in a hunting accident and also after having lost half his team during this tour. But none of this stopped him any more. In this last stage it was just between him and Fignon and he could defeat him, the question was only, by how large a margin.
As it goes with time trials, the first in the classement, finishes last and so, while Lemond had already finished, we were looking at Fignon running to the line with the seconds ticking away. It was close and in the end only 8 seconds separated the two. 8 seconds for Lemond to win the tour.
Is it because of this that I kept on thinking of Greg as the most sympathetic of champions? I hope to think not. This feat was heroic; what makes Greg sympathetic is his personality.