Winning the Race

GREG LeMOND'S come-from-behind victory in the Tour de France - winning by eight seconds on the last day of the grueling 2,031-mile mountainous trek - would have been inspiring all by itself. The victory was the closest in the 86-year history of the world's greatest bicycle race. But the drama of Mr. LeMond's own come-from-behind story turned the victory into a worldwide lesson on the capacity of men and women to overcome adversity through perseverance.

Since becoming in 1986 the first American to win the Tour de France, LeMond was knocked back not once, but three times. He had to overcome both a near-fatal gunshot wound that was supposed to end his career in 1987, and the demoralizing skepticism of friends and experts as he then dealt with two more crippling injuries.

One can only imagine what it took for LeMond to come back - the private moments of struggle, the determination to return.

LeMond is ``always able to find something good in the worst possible situation,'' his wife says. Yet it's clear he wasn't content only to find a happy but limited accommodation to his problems - but to actively work to transform them.

As LeMond pedaled past the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the words of the grizzled coach in the British movie ``Chariots of Fire'' came to mind. A fleet young Scottish minister-to-be had just collapsed at the finish line - winning the race after being tripped and falling far behind: ``That's not the prettiest [race] I've ever seen,'' the coach says, ``but it's certainly the bravest.''

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