An interview with Levi Leipheimer, June 28, 2005
Levi Leipheimer's Grand Tour stocks have risen in 2005, as he joined the Gerolsteiner squad and became their GC focus for Le Grand Boucle in July. After wearing yellow and taking a third place finish at Dauphiné Libéré, Leipheimer is part of most observer's calculations for overall honours or at least a podium finish in Paris come July 24. Here Levi analyses his current situation, his team and his chances of success at the Tour de France.
CN: Levi, you have described the three years you spent at Rabobank as "good preparation" at the beginning of the season. What are the differences between previous years and now - and what makes you think you will achieve your goal of a top five (or even podium) placing this year? Will 2005 be your best year?
LL: Changing teams to Gerolsteiner was sort of a new beginning to me. I'm starting here with a clean slate, but with the experience and the knowledge I took from my three years at another top level team. I'm more confident in my abilities now because of what I've learned in my years with Rabobank. At Gerolsteiner, I have more freedom to put my experiences into practice and go my own way.
I don't know if 2005 will be my best year - yet. The team change and taking up training with Max Testa have done me a lot of good. I train much more intensively since Max advises me. Through his advice, I know exactly what I'm doing every time I go out the door - and that makes training to that intensity much easier mentally, because I don't doubt my training for a second.
CN: Some journalists say that your chances of achieving a good placing are slim right from the start because Gerolsteiner isn't as strong as other teams. You're not going to agree, are you?
LL: First of all, we won't have to control the race like Discovery or other GC favourites' teams. We've never won the Tour so nobody expects this control from us. But hey! Our boys have won the Eindhoven team time trial, and with Michael Rich and Sebastian Lang, there were only two of our Tour de France roster present... Believe me, we're pretty strong!
CN: Levi, tell us about Gerolsteiner's Tour de France roster. Who will support you and Georg Totschnig in the mountains; what are the strengths of this team?
LL: Usually, besides Georg and myself, Fabian Wegmann and - after his impressive performance at the Tour de Suisse - Beat Zberg are very strong in the mountains. Ronny Scholz adds up to that; he's a very reliable worker. On the flat stages, Peter Wrolich, Sebastian Lang and Michael Rich will protect us from the wind. For the sprints, Robert Förster will get his chances: He rode a good Giro d'Italia. We're definitely strong enough to cover all the different aspects of the race.
CN: Last year, you talked about "two bad days" which prevented you from finishing further up than ninth on GC. Have you tried something special in this year's preparation for the race to avoid these bad days?
LL: I had a bad day on one mountain stage and at the time trial in L'Alpe d'Huez - a shame it was that mountain time trial... the bad day on the mountain stage was an energy problem. I hadn't been able to eat enough food. But it wasn't as though I had forgotten about it; there just wasn't any space left in my stomach for more! This problem is relatively easy to solve; you just have to have a strategy of what amount you can eat on which stage without getting stomach problems. And then, you just eat as much as you possibly can!
In L'Alpe d'Huez I didn't arrive at the start in time and wasn't able to warm-up properly. It was during the third week of the Tour, so your body is "hyper-compensated" with water. You have to sweat it out before you can perform at your best, especially in events such as the mountain time trial. So this problem is also acknowledged now.
CN: Where will the Tour 2005 be decided in your opinion? Which are the key stages?
LL: In my view, he most difficult stage is definitely the 15th from Saint-Lary Soulan to Pla d'Adet. The 14th stage to Ax-3 Domaines will be as decisive as the last time trial in St. Etienne.
CN: Lance Armstrong will be riding his last race. Does that make him an absolute favourite for you or do you think that he can be beaten?
LL: He's the absolute favourite - but he can be beaten. In three weeks, anything can happen.
Courtesy of Team Gerolsteiner