Greg LeMond's attack dog is staring me down. I've made it as far as the living room of the family's brick manor outside Minneapolis, but now this purebred German shepherd has stopped me in my tracks.
"His name's Yester, as in 'yesterday,'" the three-time Tour de France winner tells me, rubbing the neck of the dog he's owned for all of six months. "Aww, he's okay."
"He likes you," LeMond's wife Kathy chimes in.
I'm not so sure. Yester hasn't released me from his gaze, and his snout is aimed at the meaty part of my thigh. I try to remember what the 'Dog Whisperer' advises in such situations. Should I stare back into those expressionless eyes or avoid eye contact altogether?
But even the 'Dog Whisperer' rarely deals with creatures such as Yester, who is no house pet but a Level III Schutzhund, a highly trained German-bred police dog, used for security purposes only and costing upward of $20,000. "All I have to do is say 'throat!'" LeMond whispers, "and he'd kill you." Lucky it is then that Yester only understands commands in German.
It might seem odd to keep a lethal guard dog in the tranquil exurb of Medina, where the locals rarely get up to anything worse than foxhunting. But if you had the kind of enemies that LeMond has acquired over the last few years, you might consider getting some protection too. He has sued everyone from Tim Blixseth, the billionaire who developed the Yellowstone Club, to various sponsors and business partners. He has tape-recorded phone calls with business associates and friends, and, most famously, he's tangled with Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis, the only other Americans to have won the Tour de France. LeMond was among the first to suggest that media darling Armstrong might have used performance-enhancing drugs, and he testified at Landis's doping hearing last May, after a Landis associate threatened to publicly reveal that LeMond had been sexually abused as a child.
By refusing to keep quiet LeMond has created a massive rift in the sport he left nearly 15 years ago. The Lance/Landis camp derides him as a "whiner" who's jealous of all other American Tour winners and who may have even used blood boosters himself, while the pro-LeMond camp worships him as the greatest champion of all. "I've received death threats," he says. "I've had people say I should have my teeth kicked out. I'm a lightning rod for everybody."
This spring LeMond launched a new offensive in his long-running war with Armstrong by serving a breach-of-contract lawsuit against Trek, which has licensed the LeMond Racing Cycles brand since 1995 and which also sponsored Armstrong beginning in 1998. The partnership generated more than $100 million for Trek and $5 million for LeMond over the years. Ostensibly a business dispute, the complaint is filled with explosive allegations against Trek and Armstrong – among other things, that Trek stopped promoting LeMond's products after he spoke out against doping and Armstrong. It goes so far as to say that Armstrong was trying to sabotage LeMond's business. "Lance basically destroyed my bike company," LeMond says.
"I'm a busy man," Armstrong told me, when I later asked him about this. "Greg LeMond is never on my to-do list."
Trek fired back with a massive, very public countersuit against LeMond, claiming that LeMond's "inconsistent behavior" damaged the Trek brand and harmed his own company as well. The case may open up a Pandora's box of cycling's darkest secrets. Sample allegation: that Armstrong's team paid a $500,000 bribe to persuade cycling officials to accept a backdated prescription after Armstrong tested positive for corticosteroids during the 1999 Tour. "I don't care if he is a hero," LeMond says. "I am going to bring that to the forefront."
Armstrong dismisses LeMond, saying, "I feel really sorry for the guy," but taking the high road seems unlikely to keep LeMond at bay. In his home, LeMond tells me ominously, "I was always too nice. I'm holding people accountable from now on."
It seems wise for me to make friends with Yester, so I let him give my hand a good sniff before I reach down to rub his neck. He assents, relaxing slightly, but I still feel a vibration rising from deep within his chest, the low beginning of a growl.