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Levi Leipheimer 05

One more kiss

Huge rabbits and a huge win

By:
Cycling News
Published:
August 23, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:10 BST

It's not over until it's over so they say, but no matter what happens tomorrow it's been a fun ride...

Tour of Germany - August 22, 2005

It's not over until it's over so they say, but no matter what happens tomorrow it's been a fun ride so far. I've been having a great race personally here in Germany but my team has been so strong and supportive for the entire race. I owe it all to them.

It's been some epic racing. At one point I was wearing three rain jackets at once on top of other layers of clothing. We've had our share of cold and rain here at the tour of Germany, but the cool thing is that the Germans still come out in full force to cheer us on, rain or shine. Something even cooler is that they've been playing that California song ('The OC' theme) at the start and finish every day and it just so happens that I am mere days away from returning home to California. It's been another long season and I can't wait to get home. In a few days I'll be in Sonoma County and that may be the only thing that can top the biggest win of my career. (If I win!)

It all started on the Austrian Rettenbachferner climb. I've always wanted to race on that climb and it happens to be this season's highest mountain top finish.

I was feeling great and my intention was to work for my teammate Georg Totchnig since it was his home region. In the end, however, I was feeling really strong so I figured I should get as much time as possible on Ullrich. It was bittersweet because as happy as I was to win, I felt bad about the situation. Georg was really great about it and he understood.

That climb was crazy difficult. We all rode 12/27 gearing and I was in the 27 for most of the time. At one point a guy on a mountain bike rode along side of us for a long time. It was pretty discouraging but it was testimony to how steep the road was. To our credit, the guy on the mountain bike hadn't raced all day, or at least I hope not. There were also huge rabbits running alongside of us. Men in rabbit costumes that is. Don't ask...I didn't.

Today was insane windy in the time trial. I was really motivated (obviously) but Jan had a great race and I was happy he won. There's not much else to say about a time trial other than that I went as hard as I could. I should get some rest now for tomorrow's final stage. I hope it goes well and I can return to California and end my European season on a good note. I have one last race in San Francisco and then it's time to hit the mountain bike trails and eat dessert.

Thanks for reading,
Levi

Another Tour chapter closed

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 26, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:58 BST

I am closing another chapter in my book of bike racing. It didn't have the ending I thought it would...

July 25, 2005

I am closing another chapter in my book of bike racing. It didn't have the ending I thought it would but this is just one chapter, not the end of the book - I'm already looking forward to next year's tour.

I'm sorry I've been out of touch for the past two days. My schedule has left time for nothing other than the tour and team events. I'll tell you about it, but first I'll tell you about the time trial. The thing is, I had a bad day. I felt like crap, I didn't feel strong and I had a bad race. On the flip side of things Mancebo had the best time trial of his life - he was the guy ahead of me in the GC going into the time trial. In the last time trial I beat him by over two minutes and this time he beat me. Even if I had a great race I probably would not have taken back all the time I needed to move into fifth since he rode so incredibly well. I did end up moving into fifth because of another rider's misfortune. Rasmussen had a terrible day. He crashed twice and had a few bike changes - it was a tragic day for him. He moved from third to seventh in the GC. It's really sad considering how well he rode throughout the Tour. That's all I can say about the time tiral; that's bike racing.

The next day in Paris is normally more of a parade race than anything. Usually things are decided in the GC and we can roll into Paris comfortably. This was not the case for me. Vino was just two seconds behind me in the GC so I had to follow him because of the time bonus sprints. At the first sprint he attacked 1500 metres before the line, so me and three of my teammates followed. I would have had four teammates but Vino's teammate Danielle Nardello moved Peter 'Paco' Wrolich into the barriers off Vino's wheel. He thought it was me but I went around the other way. Unfortunately the 1500 metres before the sprint were all uphill, and Vino ended up dropping everyone but me. He saved just a bit for the last 100 metres and I just didn't have the power to come around him. So we were on the same time since he got six seconds bonus and I got four seconds. I still had fifth since my fractions of a second were lower. Can you believe that? After 4000 kilometers and three weeks we were seperated by fractions of a second!

After the sprint there were a couple of attacks, which is unethical since we had not arrived on the Champs Elysees yet, and the yellow jersey and his team traditionally lead the peloton home. It had started to rain and there were two crashes, including a couple of Discovery riders. Because of the dangerous conditions the jury announced that there would be no time bonuses in Paris. Still, I stayed on his wheel for the final time bonus before we came into Paris just in case. I figured the sprinters would be up there for the final sprint so I didn't worry about that. As you probably already know, Vino won the stage and I was bumped back to sixth place at the very end of the race. The jury did take away the second bonus sprint but not the bonus at the finish. All I can do at this point is look ahead to next year's tour.

I didn't have much time to sit around and be disappointed thankfully. We rushed back to the hotel to shower and change for a formal Gerolsteiner event. The company brought many of their employees to see the race and celebrate with the riders. We were at the dinner until 1am basically, and although it was really cool, we were tired. After getting to bed late we were up early the next morning and on a bus to Gerolstein, Germany. We drove five and a half hours to sign autographs and get up on stage and meet people. Then I headed to the airport to go home. My wife and the dogs flew home straight from Paris so she was able to pick me up at the airport when I got in. She picked me up just after she picked up a pizza. This is a clear sign that the tour is over, bcause normally it's apples, bananas and rice. It was a very long day and it's so nice to be home!

Going home happens in two stages. Coming back to our house in Spain is the first step. The second step is going to our real home in California. Home in Spain is just a building but home in California is home. I can't wait. It's been a long season, and although it's not over yet I'm beginning to think about mountain biking, Sierra Nevada beer and sleeping in.

I'd like to say thank you now to Cyclingnews, the Mercury News and all my sponsors. Thanks to the above mentioned publications we were able to raise some money for the non profit we're building to raise money for animal charities. Thanks to my sponsors I can race my bike in races like the Tour de France. Thanks to Specialized I can race my super light, high performance all round kick ass bike in races like the Tour de France. That would be my Tarmac SL. Finally I would like to thank you all for reading. The fans are the most important part of what I do.

I'll see you back here next year!
Levi

Legs do the talking

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 23, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:58 BST

Have you ever seen an accident happen before your very eyes? It's a very strange thing. Especially...

July 22, 2005

Have you ever seen an accident happen before your very eyes? It's a very strange thing. Especially when you see it and you know what's going to happen but the people involved have no idea. We saw just that today but luckily everyone was fine.

We were following T Mobile who was getting escorted by a cop on a motorcycle. We were on the wrong side of the road going about 65km/h and another car pulled out from between the stopped traffic on our right. The motorcycle hit him head on and the cop flew about ten meters from his bike. It was so amazing to see him stand up and walk back to his demolished bike. He was wearing a short sleeved dress shirt and the normal French cop uniform. No leather jacket or pants. I mean, he was wearing pants but they weren't leather.

He did have a huge helmet on thankfully. We were so happy to see him stand up because it was so bad we expected the worst. The car was also badly damaged but everyone was fine. Hey, getting us to the hotel quickly is not so important if things like that can happen. I'll sit in traffic next time and won't complain.

I'll still complain about the race though...just joking. My legs would complain if they had their own voice. They would also tell you that this is by far the most difficult tour they've ever done and they would ask you why the rest of me takes them here. They would prefer the rest of me to order them a beer and tan them on a beach. Enough about my legs.

Can you tell I've been racing for eighteen weeks now. Or three. I've lost count. My brain has a question. Has the definition of the word flat changed recently? I don't see much news during the Tour but I think it must have. Have they changed the entire dictionary? Anyway today was a "flat" stage. Maybe "flat" is the new "hilly". It is in France.

Today was a "flat" stage with a couple 11 or so kilometre climbs. There were lots of attacks and at one point my bike stopped working. It wasn't shifting very well and I thought I would need a bike change. This was scary since we were going mach ten. I dropped way, way back and the peloton was about a kilometre long. Luckily my bike started working again and I didn't need the bike change. Then my only problem was getting back up to the front and I could hear in my radio that Ullrich was in a split at the front.

My teammate Georg Totschnig came all the way back to get me. He helped me move back up and it hurt. He's been helping me so much here and he won a stage. He's a great teammate. So I made it up there and managed to stay out of trouble again today. It's a relief to have made it this far. There is always the possibility of crashing at the tour.

We're in a really cool area today. Driving to the start was very scenic. It looks like highlands with huge rolling hills and big stone walls and castles. Well, my legs and brain and the rest of me will bid you farewell now so we can rest up for the time trial.

Wish us luck and thanks for reading!
Levi

July 21, 2005

Running naked

Guess what today's stage was like? You guessed it! Fast and hard. Not to mention really hot. So hot that one guy had to take all of his clothes off to cool down. Not a racer thankfully, a fan.

If you watched the coverage maybe you saw him running with us. You just never know what you're going to see at the tour. You do know that you're going to see a lot of people acting crazy on the side of the road - but naked?

The race started gradually up hill for 30 kilometres with a tailwind. It was hard. I think a lot of guys want to do something in the race now that their opportunities are getting fewer and fewer.

After about 50 kilometres a break of ten got away. Discovery rode tempo and let the break get up to 15 minutes at one point. There were two climbs at the end of the race so everyone was racing to get into position. CSC was riding hard on the front. Once we hit the climbs it just broke up into small groups.

I ended up in a group with Vino, Rasmussen and Mancebo. We dropped Mancebo and I was certain he was back with the cars when we hit the top but then he suddenly appeared out of nowhere. I don't know how he was so far back one minute and then with us the next. So I wasn't able to gain any time on him.

Everyone is scrambling now to move up in the GC, hold onto their position or get a stage win. Obviously I would like to move into fifth place. Tomorrow is another hard day. There are a couple of second and third category climbs. It's always up and down and guys will be attacking for their last chance at a stage win - we've only got the time trial and the finale in Paris after tomorrow's stage so it's getting down to the wire.

I'm looking forward to unpacking my suitcase for more than two days but the racing is nowhere near over. Stay tuned for tomorrow's stage.

Thanks,
Levi

Another day of punishment

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 22, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:58 BST

Today was another lesson in pain. The course profile looked like the edge of a saw for starters. A...

July 20, 2005

Today was another lesson in pain. The course profile looked like the edge of a saw for starters. A 240 kilometre saw blade. The entire day was up two kilometres, down two kilometres and so on. There were absolutely no flat spots.

At one point one of my teammates rode up along side me on one of the little climbs and said, "do you know that there are 40 of these today?". He counted them on the profile. I didn't mention it in my diary but I crashed yesterday. It wasn't really bad but I lost some skin from riding into the ditch. I figured everything was fine but I was relieved when the race started and everything felt normal.

It started out really fast and the field broke up on the first third category climb somewhere around the 22 kilometre mark. It came back together eventually and that's when the break went. After that Discovery assumed their position on the front riding tempo. By the time the break reached 22 minutes they stopped working and let some other teams take over.

Credit Agricole pulled for a while and then with about 30 kilometers to go T Mobile went to the front and just stepped on the gas. All of their guys took turns on the front as hard as they could and the last guy before Jan was Vino. He went so fast into the final three kilometre climb that only ten of us remained. Then Ullrich attacked. It hurt. Did I mention that? And did I mention how fast we were going?

Someone told me it didn't even look like a climb on TV because of the speed, but my legs will tell you that it was a climb.

Tomorrow we get more of the same punishment at the end of the race. We finish on a super steep three kilometre climb. I can't wait for that one. I think I'm getting more mentally tired than anything. It starts to happen around this time in the Tour. The driving, the late hours, the early mornings and of course the racing. I'm having fun of course, but if I stop making sense in the next couple of days maybe you'll understand.

Speaking of fun, our team had barbecues the past few nights at our hotel in Pau. The hotel staff wouldn't let our cooks in the kitchen again so they cooked out on the grill and we all sat around listening to the adventures of the staff.

I learned that the real action begins when the racers go to bed. They have soccer games, they roll each other down streets in garbage cans and lots of other interesting things I can't write about. It was pretty cool, and for a couple hours it didn't feel like we were in the middle of the Tour.

Better get some sleep!

See you tomorrow,
Levi

July 19, 2005

Great guy, true professional

Hi everyone.

I had some much needed rest on the much needed rest day. I took some time to read over my diaries. The last one bothered me so I wanted to mention it now.

Sometimes when I write these things I'm really tired and can hardly formulate a proper thought. Anyway, in the last entry I didn't give George Hincapie enough credit. I mentioned his win but it didn't seem to come across the way it should have. So I should elaborate now that I can.

George deserves a lot of credit. He didn't seem to get any the other day from the press. He has spent more time in the wind during the last six tours than any other rider and he could easily finish in the top ten of the tour.

This would be great on it's own, but consider the fact that he also finishes in the top three in Roubaix - no other rider can do that.

He's the best climber on Discovery this year, aside from Lance. Today he pulled on Marie-Blanque and only eight riders were left, then he continued to stay with the best riders on the Aubisque.

I saved the most important and impressive part for the end. He's a really great guy, teammate, father and husband. He would give anyone the shirt off his back and he's a true professional. Everyone likes George, period.

So that's all I have to say today.

More on the race tomorrow,
Levi

Running naked

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 22, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:58 BST

Guess what today's stage was like? You guessed it! Fast and hard. Not to mention really hot. So hot...

July 21, 2005

Guess what today's stage was like? You guessed it! Fast and hard. Not to mention really hot. So hot that one guy had to take all of his clothes off to cool down. Not a racer thankfully, a fan.

If you watched the coverage maybe you saw him running with us. You just never know what you're going to see at the tour. You do know that you're going to see a lot of people acting crazy on the side of the road - but naked?

The race started gradually up hill for 30 kilometres with a tailwind. It was hard. I think a lot of guys want to do something in the race now that their opportunities are getting fewer and fewer.

After about 50 kilometres a break of ten got away. Discovery rode tempo and let the break get up to 15 minutes at one point. There were two climbs at the end of the race so everyone was racing to get into position. CSC was riding hard on the front. Once we hit the climbs it just broke up into small groups.

I ended up in a group with Vino, Rasmussen and Mancebo. We dropped Mancebo and I was certain he was back with the cars when we hit the top but then he suddenly appeared out of nowhere. I don't know how he was so far back one minute and then with us the next. So I wasn't able to gain any time on him.

Everyone is scrambling now to move up in the GC, hold onto their position or get a stage win. Obviously I would like to move into fifth place. Tomorrow is another hard day. There are a couple of second and third category climbs. It's always up and down and guys will be attacking for their last chance at a stage win - we've only got the time trial and the finale in Paris after tomorrow's stage so it's getting down to the wire.

I'm looking forward to unpacking my suitcase for more than two days but the racing is nowhere near over. Stay tuned for tomorrow's stage.

Thanks,
Levi

July 20, 2005

Another day of punishment

Today was another lesson in pain. The course profile looked like the edge of a saw for starters. A 240 kilometre saw blade. The entire day was up two kilometres, down two kilometres and so on. There were absolutely no flat spots.

At one point one of my teammates rode up along side me on one of the little climbs and said, "do you know that there are 40 of these today?". He counted them on the profile. I didn't mention it in my diary but I crashed yesterday. It wasn't really bad but I lost some skin from riding into the ditch. I figured everything was fine but I was relieved when the race started and everything felt normal.

It started out really fast and the field broke up on the first third category climb somewhere around the 22 kilometre mark. It came back together eventually and that's when the break went. After that Discovery assumed their position on the front riding tempo. By the time the break reached 22 minutes they stopped working and let some other teams take over.

Credit Agricole pulled for a while and then with about 30 kilometers to go T Mobile went to the front and just stepped on the gas. All of their guys took turns on the front as hard as they could and the last guy before Jan was Vino. He went so fast into the final three kilometre climb that only ten of us remained. Then Ullrich attacked. It hurt. Did I mention that? And did I mention how fast we were going?

Someone told me it didn't even look like a climb on TV because of the speed, but my legs will tell you that it was a climb.

Tomorrow we get more of the same punishment at the end of the race. We finish on a super steep three kilometre climb. I can't wait for that one. I think I'm getting more mentally tired than anything. It starts to happen around this time in the Tour. The driving, the late hours, the early mornings and of course the racing. I'm having fun of course, but if I stop making sense in the next couple of days maybe you'll understand.

Speaking of fun, our team had barbecues the past few nights at our hotel in Pau. The hotel staff wouldn't let our cooks in the kitchen again so they cooked out on the grill and we all sat around listening to the adventures of the staff.

I learned that the real action begins when the racers go to bed. They have soccer games, they roll each other down streets in garbage cans and lots of other interesting things I can't write about. It was pretty cool, and for a couple hours it didn't feel like we were in the middle of the Tour.

Better get some sleep!

See you tomorrow,
Levi

Great guy, true professional

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 20, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:58 BST

Hi everyone. I had some much needed rest on the much needed rest day. I took some time to read over...

July 19, 2005

Hi everyone.

I had some much needed rest on the much needed rest day. I took some time to read over my diaries. The last one bothered me so I wanted to mention it now.

Sometimes when I write these things I'm really tired and can hardly formulate a proper thought. Anyway, in the last entry I didn't give George Hincapie enough credit. I mentioned his win but it didn't seem to come across the way it should have. So I should elaborate now that I can.

George deserves a lot of credit. He didn't seem to get any the other day from the press. He has spent more time in the wind during the last six tours than any other rider and he could easily finish in the top ten of the tour.

This would be great on it's own, but consider the fact that he also finishes in the top three in Roubaix - no other rider can do that.

He's the best climber on Discovery this year, aside from Lance. Today he pulled on Marie-Blanque and only eight riders were left, then he continued to stay with the best riders on the Aubisque.

I saved the most important and impressive part for the end. He's a really great guy, teammate, father and husband. He would give anyone the shirt off his back and he's a true professional. Everyone likes George, period.

So that's all I have to say today.

More on the race tomorrow,
Levi

July 17, 2005

Just surviving

Man, today was hard - I was so wasted at the finish. It was all about survival.

At the beginning of the stage we had a climb that was around five kilometres long. It wasn't even categorised. It was more difficult than any of the small climbs we did the first week, but today it wasn't even considered a climb on the course profile. It was on a tiny little road also so it strung out the field.

The break got away early and George sat on all day. It was a great day for him. To win a stage like today's would be really amazing. After we went over a couple climbs CSC started chasing hard and they broke things up for Basso. He was really strong today and he moved up so their tactics worked.

I lost a spot in the gc which sucks, but I did what I could. The crowds were closer than I have ever seen - I thought I was going to crash, and it's difficult to see where the road is going because of the people in front of you. It's insanity on those climbs.

Today it took us just as long to descend the climb on our bikes, as it did to climb it. It was really difficult to ride through all the people. Our bus parked at the bottom of the climb and then we had a long drive to the hotel. We didn't get here until 10.30pm. So that's when we ate and got massage. I'm so tired I can hardly concentrate. I hope I'm making sense.

Tomorrow is another rest day so I will not be seeing you but the day after should be another epic tour stage. It's not tough like today but I'm sure there will be lots of action. I'll see you then.

Thanks for reading,
Levi

Author
Levi Leipheimer 05

Levi Leipheimer shot to prominence when he made the podium at the 2001 Vuelta while riding for US Postal. He spent three years at Rabobank before joining the German Gerolsteiner team for 2005, where he is one of the team's main men for stage race general classifications. Leipheimer has twice finished in the top ten at the Tour de France, and this year will aim higher if his form allows. "We'll have to wait and see," he says. Follow Levi's progress to the Tour and beyond on Cyclingnews.