1984 Olympic Road Race - Large Revelations
For many of us "older cyclists" we remember the 1984 Olympic road race quite well. I remember being dissapointed to see Canadian Steve Bauer outsprinted by a non "sprinter" and settled for silver. For decades we searched for answers. Finally parts of the story have been revealed.
I found the Sports Illustrated story
quite revealing, in that there was systematic blood doping done by the U.S. team.
The gold medal winner was Alexi Grewal, the son of a Sikh father from India and a German mother, who became the only American athlete of Indian descent to ever win an Olympic gold medal.
He was this thin ectomorph who I thought was going to get "eaten alive" by Bauer in the final metres. Oh well, it didn't happen and Grewal won the gold for the U.S. Was it an unscrupulous and a selfish act that propelled him to gold ? Eddie B had told the U.S. team , ride for Phinney. Davis Phinney, was the team leader, so did he deny his team manager's orders ?
A bit of poetic justice was served as Steve Bauer went on to have an illustrious pro career, while Grewal struggled even as a domestique during his short pro career. I believe had Grewal not medaled, he would have been out of cycling much sooner. I am not a fan of Grewal due to his poor attitude, but there's always two sides to every coin. After finding out some interesting facts, of which I'll share with you, I don't dislike him as much anymore.
Alexi has told the story of that day, and I never knew the story of how it unfolded until after reading tidbits here and there.
He said that he "played" every member of that breakaway to convince them that he was just barely hanging-on, when in fact, he felt great. I remember the moment where we all thought Bauer was dropping him on the climb, but that was just the moment where Alexi tricked him into towing him the remaining 2-3 miles.
Alexi mentions the ridiculous vanity of team leader Davis Phinney and his decision to wear a skinsuit instead of a jersey and shorts. Phinney had a very small pocket and carried just one banana that day, and basically, started to bonk. Phinney came up to Grewal and asked him for his food, and Alexi lied to him and said he was out (he wasn't). He felt Phinney would have won easily if it were not for his running out of food. Also, Grewal admits he didn't want to "tow" Phinney and fellow team mate Ron Kiefel to the line and have them take glory. He took an awful risk. He rode selfishly, and rode the opposite of what was expected from him. He was the domestique for Phinney and Kiefel but rode in the most "Non-domestique" manner. He risked outsprinting Bauer and got away with it. As he notes, the good-teammate plan would have meant delivering Kiefel and Phinney to the finish. But he didn't play that role.
"Two laps to go Davis asks me for food. I lied, said I don’t have
any, I justified it in my mind by thinking I might need it myself."
He made a decision to profoundly screw Phinney in that moment.
Others have said, that Bauer was way overgeared. Alexi knew it (as Bauer led it out), and he chose a gear that allowed him to make that killer jump at the end. Again, the jury is out on that one. The fact remains that he did not play the role of a domestique, not even a team player and pretended to weaken.
But there is a flip side to every coin. How is anyone (Alexi especially) expected to have allegiance to guys he barely rode with? Alexi had one allegiance that day and that was to work for himself. It is Phinney's own fault for wearing a skin suit not able to hold food ? Maybe Phinney thought he team mates would help ? His domestiques would help ? Was it the ultimate selfish act in the sport of cycling ?
I wonder what they think of Alex today ?
His Olympic gold medal was stolen a few years ago at an airport in Newark, N.J., on trip to India. The stolen briefcase containing the medal is no longer, similar to his career. I personally think, his own personality sabotaged what could've been a long pro career. Spitting at cameras, having tussles with the media, being "unprofessional" in situations all played factors in his demise. Will he always be seen as this jerk ? I don't know, I'll leave that up to you to decide.