Art of Cycling: Greig Leach
I was riding that perfect crit. You know the one, you are coming around for the bell lap, near the front, but not on the front. Made even better because your new girlfriend is at the finish line and you feel sure you’ve got the legs to take the sprint at the end of the next lap. But then it happens, as you reach for your water bottle, you clip the wheel of the guy in front of you.
The next thing you know, you are sliding across the rough asphalt leaving your jersey and your skin behind. Once scraped raw, it is into the dusty dirt at the edge of the road you have just left.
Later that day you ask yourself, “should I keep doing this?” After all, it is the late 70s, Americans don’t really factor into the pro peloton and if you are honest with yourself, you know that isn’t a realistic dream anyway. Sure, you’ve done alright in amateur crits and road races, even won a couple, but you aren’t a dominant rider, you admit you are a lousy climber, and you are too tall for the sport anyway.
But then I didn’t come to Richmond, Virginia to race bikes, I came to study art. So, that is where I decided I should put my energy. I wasn’t going to hang up my cleats, just my racing bib numbers. But the passion for bike racing, the knowledge of what it is to be in the pack, in the break, or off the back stayed with me.
Now it is the next century, that young cute girl at the finish line has been my wife for over thirty years and I have been following the Tour de France whenever I can see it on TV in the USA. In 2012, while feeling guilty spending the sweltering days of July watching the Tour (I am not one to sit and watch TV in the middle of the day), my ever-clever wife, the actor Bridget Gethins, says, “why not paint the race and offer them for sale on Facebook?” Little did she (or I) know what that simple, brilliant idea was about to lead to.
It worked. At the end of the Tour, a friend asked if I would be painting the Olympics, admittedly I hadn’t thought of it, but why not? Those paintings actually generate some press and an appearance on my local NBC affiliate where I created a watercolour while talking to the reporter…
Greig Leach is a widely exhibited and collected artist with works represented in the permanent collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Vatican, and corporate collections throughout the United States. He is a past Virginia Museum Professional Fellowship recipient, a past Artist-in-Residence for the VMFA, an Artist-in-Education for the Virginia Commission for the Arts, a visiting artist for the Webb School in Knoxville, TN and a Visiting Artist to the American Academy in Rome.