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Eddie Borysewicz, coach to LeMond, Armstrong, dies at 81

Eddie B and Greg LeMond in 2004
Eddie Borysewicz and Greg LeMond in 2004 (Image credit: Mitchel Clinton/www.clintonphoto.com)

Edward 'Eddie B' Borysewicz, a famed cycling coach and mentor to riders like Greg LeMond, Andy Hampsten and Lance Armstrong, died this week in a hospital in Drezdenko, Poland after contracting COVID-19. He was 81.

Borysewicz was a talented cyclist in Poland's junior ranks after World War II, winning the national title twice before entering into compulsory military service. When he returned, he made the shortlist to compete in the Peace Race with the national team but pre-selection physical examinations led to a false diagnosis of tuberculosis. Intensive treatments for a disease he did not even have led to permanent physical damage that ended his career.

He instead turned to coaching and became a national team coach in his native Poland before a chance meeting ahead of the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal led him to move overseas to lead the US national cycling team. He scoured the results for talented juniors and invited them to train with him - one of those riders was LeMond. Borysewicz invited LeMond to Poland and helped organise a European racing campaign for him.

Borysewicz led the national team at the 1978 Junior World Championships in Washington, DC, taking a ragtag team from the back of the peloton into the top 10 of the team time trial. By 1979, LeMond claimed the country's first Junior world title in Argentina.

"He was great, he laid the groundwork for American cycling," LeMond said in an interview with Rowery.org last year. "He made these American cyclists believe in themselves, believe that they can go to Europe and race against Europeans. For many years in the US, we believed that the pros, the Russians, the Germans from the East, were good, and we were somewhere at the back. The riders were intimidated ... maybe I wasn't, but many were. He gave us a lot of confidence to go to Europe."

Borysewicz graduated to coaching the elite programmes for the US federation. After the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, which were hit by the US boycott of Russia, he led a successful foray for the US delegation at the Los Angeles Games in 1984.

The US team enjoyed major success in Los Angeles - road race gold medals by Alexi Grewal in the men's road race and Connie Carpenter in the women's along with silver from Rebecca Twigg, gold in the individual pursuit by Steve Hegg and a 1-2 in the men's sprint with Mark Gorski and Nelson Vails, as well as silver in the team pursuit with David Grylls, Hegg, Patrick McDonough, Leonard Nitz and Brent Emery, bronze in the team time trial with Ron Kiefel, Roy Knickmann, Davis Phinney and Andy Weaver, and bronze in the individual pursuit by Nitz.

Borysewicz's 1985 book 'Bicycle Road Racing: Complete Programme for Training and Competition' set the standard as a training manual for a generation of cyclists, giving advice on bike fit, nutrition, training and periodisation and tactics.

Alexi Grewal said in 2004, "Eddie had come into the cycling program like John Wayne, taking over a non-existent program and forming riders into a team who believed in themselves and believed that they could beat the rest of the world."

However, the 1984 Olympic Games results were later shrouded in controversy when it emerged that some members of the Olympic team engaged in blood transfusions – which were not banned at the time – organised by the federation's elite athletics director Ed Burke. Borysewicz insisted the procedures took place without his knowledge or approval. The federation banned the procedure in January 1985 and fined Borysewicz and Burke.

Borysewicz resigned from the US federation in 1987 and went on to start his own road team, sponsored first by Sunkyong. It became Montgomery/Avenir, Montgomery-Bell and Subaru-Montgomery after investor Thom Weisel backed the team. It became the US Postal Service team in 1996, but Borysewicz stepped aside in 1997 and the team was taken over by Mark Gorski.

Borysewicz eventually gave up coaching elite racers and instead focussed on training aspiring masters racers in San Diego, his main residence, although he maintained a home in Poland.

He gathered a loyal following in California, and when his home burned down in the 2003 Cedar Fire, his friends raised $120,000 to help him rebuild. LeMond presented Borysewicz with the "Father of Modern American Cycling" award at the Endurance Sports Awards in San Diego after holding a fundraising cycling camp for Borysewicz.

The event reunited many of the 1984 Olympic team: John Beckman, Scott Berryman, Ken Carpenter, Greg Demgen, Tom Doughty, Emery, Grewal, Grylls, Hegg, Kiefel, Knickman, McDonough, Phinney, Wayne Stetina, Twigg, Vails, Danny Van Haute, Shaun Wallace and Mark Whitehead.

According to Wacław Skarul, chairman of the Polish Federation, Borysewicz died from complications of COVID-19. He leaves behind his wife Sophie and children Julia and Edward.