What do we count as the biggest sporting day in Australia? Is it the AFL grand final? Maybe the NRL grand final? What about Melbourne Cup?
The 1989 Cycling World Championship, held in Chambéry, France, was the greatest finale in World Championship racing of all time.
I’m not sure if it’s the fact that Greg LeMond annoys the hell out of me, whether he rolled the amazing Sean Kelly, or whether he trumped the beautifully odd Laurent Fignon in his home country that gets me most.
Maybe it was the fact that LeMond’s ride was merely months after performing an exorcism on the morale of that same hearty Frenchman. Maybe it was the dumping rain, or the fact that the ‘hitters’ actually only caught the early break with about four miles to go.
Fignon wanted revenge after an eight second loss in the Tour de France when he, the romantic Frenchman with long hair and reading glasses, lost out to technologically progressive American Greg LeMond.
That final time trial certainly went down in history as the quintessential evidence behind the benefits of technological advancement in cycling – Fignon chose bullhorn bars and Lemond used TT bars, setting the precedent every future important cycling race to followed.
In Chambéry, Greg LeMond denied his French challenger’s retribution and attained his own rainbow jersey.
Sean Kelly took third amidst a career that holds such a collection of victories he is (and already was) rendered a true legend by anyone’s account. His capability was so dynamic he could muster results in nearly any type of a race, but his sprinting prowess was unquestionable, so for LeMond to be so strong as to muscle said ‘ginger nut’ out at the finish was spectacularly unexpected.
Sean Kelly won Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the points jersey at Le Tour to go with a not-so-shabby ninth place overall, as well as the World Cup of that 1989 season, so to be achieving results in one of the last races of the season was even more impressive.
Meanwhile, the first Russian rider to ever ride a world road cycling championship, Dimitri Konyshev, came second after sticking it out in the breakaway all day long.
At the end of the day, Greg LeMond was the superhuman that out-powered all of the best riders, demonstrating his spectrum of abilities and himself to be the best rider in the world (and more importantly, in America).