Greg LeMond, who has taken cycling endorsement income to new heights, will do the same today to the sport's salaries. LeMond, winner of this year's World Championships and Tour de France, will sign a three-year, $5.7-million contract with the French club, Team Z, his attorney said Tuesday.
When he signs at a ceremony in Paris, LeMond, 28, will become the highest-paid bike rider ever. LeMond will receive base salaries of $1.8 million next year, $1.92 million in 1991 and $2 million in the last year of the contract. He can earn bonuses of $200,000 for winning the Tour de France, $100,000 for winning the World Championships, and $50,000 for winning the Tour of Italy or any World Cup event. Another clause in LeMond's contract calls for the entire Z team to use a bike that LeMond designed and that carries his name.
His joining a French team is something of a surprise. LeMond, of Wayzata, Minn., has publicly expressed his interest in signing with a U.S. team. That preference led to a bidding war between the Coors and 7-Eleven teams.
LeMond already rides for the Coors Light team in a series of races in the United States, so that was attractive. On the other hand, 7-Eleven is the only U.S. team to campaign in Europe, where nearly all the prestigious races are held. However, 7-Eleven's stock dropped when it became clear that the team would have to enlist a co-sponsor to support a LeMond-led team. Coors was in the same position.
The lack of financial commitment by those sponsors to the European tour eventually sent LeMond and his advisers looking to European teams.
"The problems came to a head at the World Championships (last month in France)," LeMond's attorney, Nathan Jenkins, said from his office in Reno. "We negotiated diligently with 7-Eleven and Coors. But it was clear that they did not have the financial commitment to cycling that the Europeans have."
Jenkins said LeMond--who is criticized by some in the sport for his businesslike approach and the unprecedented amounts of endorsement money he has commanded--did not take the highest offer. That bidder was the French-based Toshiba team, which offered $200,000 more per year. Jenkins said LeMond had, by that point, established a good rapport with Team Z and had all but made his decision.
Jenkins said that part of LeMond's initial reluctance to sign with another European team was his bad experience with his former team, ADR of Belgium. According to Jenkins, that team owes LeMond $300,000 in salary and has been in breach of the contract. LeMond announced after winning the Tour de France in July that he would leave ADR, even though the contract had a year remaining.
ADR officials say LeMond broke the contract and have threatened to sue. Jenkins said he has not been contacted by ADR's attorneys.
Team Z was the No. 10 team in the world in 1988, when it was known as Z-Peugeot. LeMond's contract is with Team Z. It is not known if Peugeot will remain as a co-sponsor next season.