Karma really is a beautiful thing! I am a true believer of what goes around comes around. A few days ago I was thrilled to read another uplifting story about my cycling hero Greg LeMond and his new carbon fibre venture with Geelong’s Deakin University. You may ask why do I care so much about firstly, how well Lemond sleeps at night and secondly, why Deakin University, some 90 kilometres down the highway from me, deserves congratulations? Well this is why.
Carbon fibre used as a light weight alternative to materials such as steel tubing and aluminium alloys in bicycle equipment, first began to revolutionise bike racing in the mid 1980’s. Three time Tour de France champion, Greg LeMond was at the forefront of this revolution during his racing days. He won all his Tour victories (in 1986, ’89 & ’90) with carbon fibre frames and has been called something of an innovator in their development. (LeMond was also somewhat of a pioneer with other facets of professional cycling during the 80’s & early 90’s with clipless pedals, cycling eyewear and aero bars to name a few.)
In 1990, LeMond founded LeMond Bicycles and for a short time enjoyed a renaissance with modest sales, even pinching a small share of the market away from Eddy Merckx Cycles, producing his carbon fibre racing bikes. Though through some poor discussion making LeMond’s company unfortunately folded, and in 1995 LeMond entered an agreement with Trek to produce his LeMond Bicycles branded line.
Until 2001, LeMond and Trek had a reasonably good professional relationship, until LeMond began to raise questions about Lance Armstrong’s relationship with notorious Italian doctor Michele Ferrari and the culture of suspected drug doping. Trek immediately forced LeMond to formally apologies, but Trek and LeMond’s relationship would never be the same again, and continued to seriously sour over the years, until it was completely severed and the matter settled in a lawsuit in 2010.
The end of LeMond’s business venture with Trek had a profound effect on Greg LeMond, his family and supporters. For almost ten years, beginning in 2001 LeMond has been in the firing line for his stance against Armstrong. He dared to speak out about things that others weren’t willing to say. He stood strong for almost a decade with a small group, led by journalists David Walsh and Paul Kimmage, against the world’s greatest sporting cheat. As a result not only was he shunned by Trek, but also cycling’s racing community. LeMond has always said that he believed Armstrong was reportedly instrumental in ruining his livelihood and reputation.
In a shock announcement in 2012, Lance Armstrong was formally stripped of his seven Tour titles he won from 1999 to 2005, paving the way for many who had shunned LeMond to publicly apologise and or welcome him back into the fold. (Unfortunately, there are some who still haven’t offered an apology, or acknowledgment that he was right about Armstrong. If I am correct Trek to this day has not yet formally apologised to LeMond?) The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) decision to strip Armstrong of his Tour titles, was the catalyst for LeMond to stop brooding over life’s injustices, and he soon after began to reassert himself, and rebuild his long-shuttered business ventures which first began in its infancy in the early 1990’s.
In 2013, LeMond excitedly returned to the bike industry with a number of new projects in the pipeline, which included a takeover of Time Sports USA. By August 2016, LeMond founded another company LeMond Composities, to bring low-cost carbon fiber manufacturing technology to the market, something that he was keen to do as soon as possible. After an initial false start finding a suitable partner to produce his world-beating bikes, being the innovator that LeMond is renonwned for, he looked to Australia and Deakin University in Geelong, Victoria.
Deakin came to the table with claims that its facilities and expertise at its Carbon Nexus purpose built research facility would revolutionise the use of carbon fibre across the globe. Fortunately, no one doubts Deakin’s claim, which is good news for LeMond and possibly the development of a carbon fibre manufacturing plant in Geelong. In short, Deakin and Geelong are arguably at the forefront of accommodating “the diverse needs of international manufacturing organisations that require the cost-effective resolution of carbon fibre-related projects that are strategic and complex.”
LeMond Composites founder Greg LeMond was eager to be a part of this potentially strategic development and agreed to invest in Deakin’s technology by signing a deal worth around $58 million to build his bikes. LeMond, 56, was particularly full of praise for Deakin when he talked to the Geelong Advertiser by saying “I was in the discovery mode of trying to make and manufacture carbon fibre bikes faster and cheaper. There’s two places with world-class leadership in this field and Deakin’s work, I would say, is far more complete. Their goal is to bring low-cost carbon fibre to the market with lower CO2 emissions and they’ve achieved that.”
After a long absence away from the Tour and years of being shunned by the cycling community, it is truly wonderful to see Greg Lemond back maybe even bigger and better than before. The now vindicated former cycling great, by all accounts appears to be very optimistic (with plans to start bike production in September this year), but there is no doubt that his new exclusive global 20-year licensing agreement with Deakin University, just might revolutionise bicycle manufacturing all over again.
In 1986, LeMond became the first cyclist to win the Tour de France riding a carbon fiber bike. He is pictured here with one of his earliest carbon fibre LeMond Bicycles.
Photo Credits: The header image of Greg LeMond shooting for Eurosport at Carrefour de l’Arbre near Roubaix, April 2015, is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. The image of LeMond besides his bike in1993 is licensed and used under the Getty Images embedding service.