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Greg Lemond - Geelong Carbon deal

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Greg LeMond, cycling great, in new carbon fibre venture with Geelong's Deakin University

BY CAMERON BEST22 MINUTES AGO
Greg LeMond pioneered the use of carbon fibre in cycling.
PHOTO 

Greg LeMond (centre) riding in the 1989 Tour de France.

REUTERS: ERIC GAILLARD

American Greg LeMond is an innovator and businessman who just happened to win the world's most famous bike race — three times.

LeMond won the Tour de France in 1986, 1989 and 1991 riding carbon fibre bikes, and pioneered the use of the strong, lightweight material in cycling.

But his latest venture with Victoria's Deakin University will develop new ways to dramatically cut the cost of carbon fibre production for a wide range of uses.

"I've been credited as being the most innovative cyclist in the sport, and I think that's totally an exaggeration, but what I have been is very curious," he said.

"I see opportunity where others ask, 'Why would you do that?' and I'm [saying], 'Well, why not?'."

In a $US44 million ($58 million) deal, LeMond Composites will license technology developed at Deakin's Geelong-based carbon fibre research centre, Carbon Nexus.

Lower costs could lead to new applications for carbon fibre

The new technology, developed by PhD student Maxime Maghe and Carbon Nexus general manager Steve Atkiss, can significantly lower the cost of producing carbon fibre, which had barely changed in the years since LeMond's Tour victories.

"Carbon fibre, up until recently, has been a dream material for automotive and for so many different industries but the cost has been prohibitive," LeMond said.

"They've been able to develop a manufacturing process that lowers the capital cost and allows us to scale the growth of it, because I think demand is going to be significant."

LeMond's start-up company struck an agreement with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee last year, with plans to produce millions of kilograms of low-cost industrial grade carbon fibre for the world market.

However, that venture hit a snag just months later when LeMond Composites fired its chief executive, Connie Jackson, who led the team developing the manufacturing process.

LeMond said those matters were settled in March and would not hinder the new deal with Deakin.

For its part, the university has stepped carefully in entering a contract to license its intellectual property to the US-based company.

"Geelong's been through a difficult time. Many people see the future of Geelong wrapped around the knowledge economy and what the university can do," Deakin vice chancellor Jane Den Hollander said.

"We have been extraordinarily careful on this basis.

"This new technology could revolutionise the advanced manufacturing sector locally, across Australia and around the globe, because it will make carbon fibre more affordable to produce, which will make it more accessible for consumers."

The deal could also pave the way for LeMond's company to build a carbon fibre manufacturing plant in Geelong to work in tandem with the Oak Ridge operation.

"We would plan on having multiple lines here," LeMond said.

The company plans to start production in September.

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Good news indeed, and hope it pans out. There is company in Geelong making carbon fibre car wheels, which is outside my interest but apparently doing very well. Not sure how China will not simply dominate in the end though, as volume and scaling up becomes the key issue.

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Very interesting. Deakin is well known for its work in carbon fibre. 

 

Though...I thought carbon fibre frames for bikes were relatively cheap to make anyway....

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"Carbon fibre, up until recently, has been a dream material for automotive and for so many different industries but the cost has been prohibitive,"

 

I'm not sure I agree with that. I've been wavesailing for years and a lot of the gear is carbon-fibre, very well made, light and very strong, it has to be able to withstand a 500 ton wave landing on it and the cost is significantly lower than in cycling. You can pay  $300 for a 40cm carbon seatpost, for the same amount of money you can buy a 400cm carbon mast that has probably had a shit load more R&D. We are being completely ripped off in cycling and that won't change whilst people are willing to fork out the $$. . 

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Sure this is great for Geelong, Daekin and the team involved. Glad they have been cautious.

BRW's appraisal of doing business with Lemond and any of his businesses is described as, "a double edged sword." Mention is also made of Lemonds drive to rebuild his fortune that was lost in the GFC and his decades long addiction to alcohol, plus the famous Lemond temper, which all doesn't paint a very appealing picture. 

Greg admits to drinking away most of his cycling fortune and is sober these days. But wow, would you put your signature on a contract with him?

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14 hours ago, longshot said:

Gosh, how do you drink - I assume - millions of dollars?

seeing that you can buy 5 figure bottles of scotch, (might end up being a supply issue if you tried to drink a bottle a night though)

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15 hours ago, longshot said:

Gosh, how do you drink - I assume - millions of dollars?

Always amazes me when rich celebrities/sports stars go broke, Jonny Depp is reportedly having money problems, career earning to date total over 800 million...

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Long shot, John Daley the golfer drank and gambled away a cool 20 mil.

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Gambling I get how you can lose millions, but not just straight drinking - even a $1000 bottle (four figure but not five) of spirits per day, enough to kill mere mortals, or at least me - only 0.5 million a year or thereabouts.  But alcoholics I've known to get blotto every day seem to manage to do it pretty well on a $50 bottle of spirits, even on $10 flagons of sherry.

But yes, maybe the drinking is really never just drinking, but a set of things.

Segment on ABC news last night, where Lemond was expousing the possibilities, and something similar out of a laboratory at Oak Ridge USA. Technique must have patents around it, but even then probably hard to truly protect.

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