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Leipheimer hoping to return to Tour of California

Laura Weislo
November 27, 2012, 21:40,
March 14, 2013, 19:20
First Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Tour of California
Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) gets welcomed to the start.

Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) gets welcomed to the start.

  • Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) gets welcomed to the start.
  • Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma - Quick Step)
  • Levi Leipheimer (Omega-Pharma QuickStep) away solo

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Team situation still uncertain

Levi Leipheimer is still hoping to compete in the 2013 Tour of California, despite uncertainty surrounding his team for the coming season. The American is currently serving a six-month ban after admitting to using performance enhancing drugs during the earlier part of his career. His suspension was reduced in exchange for his testimony regarding the doping programme on the US Postal Service team, which helped to implicate Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel, Dr. Luis del Moral, trainer Jose "Pepe" Martí and Dr. Michele Ferrari.

Following his acceptance of the ban, Leipheimer was released from his Omega Pharma-Quickstep team, and is not yet able to discuss his team situation for the coming year or whether he will be able to race the Tour of California. "I'll be there to support the race in one way or another," he told Cyclingnews.

Despite being stripped of his competitive results from June 1, 1999 to July 30, 2006 and from the 2007 Tour de France, Leipheimer remains a three-time winner of the Tour of California (2007-2009), and because of his hugely popular Levi's Gran Fondo and other charity work in his Santa Rosa community, the 38-year-old has been a celebrated figure in the area and at the race.

However, the USADA case has polarized opinion about Leipheimer and the others whose testimony stripped the veil of secrecy off of cycling's doping past and toppled its biggest star, Armstrong. Some remain critical of the choices the riders made, to dope in order to have a successful career, while others admire them for having the courage to lay bare the truth. Whatever the opinions, Leipheimer wants to assure the fans that the Tour of California will be raced by clean athletes.

"There's a lot of material out there, a lot of documents in the Reasoned Decision. If someone took the time to read it all and understand what this is all about ... I think they can understand - I know this has been said a lot, and to some people it doesn't mean much in light of what's happened, but I just want to make sure that people know - that cycling is cleaner than ever right now.

"Certainly the younger generation hasn't had to face those decisions that were there 10-15 years ago. So when they come to watch the 2013 Tour of California, hey can rest assured it's going to be a clean race."

Leipheimer isn't sure how the public will react when the race comes through, but he has enjoyed the support of his family and friends as well as some fans. "I've had a lot of people reach out to me ... of course they don't condone what I did, and I don't condone what I did. But I told the truth and I think they can appreciate that. and they recognize that a lot of good can come out of that eventually."

Leipheimer will be eligible to race again on March 1, 2013, well in time for the Tour of California, which will depart from Escondido on May 12 for its first south-north route.

"I think south to north is cool, they haven't done that before. That's exciting," Leipheimer said, adding that the route could provide for another display of domination by Peter Sagan, who won five of the eight stages this year, withstanding numerous climbs and winning all but the mountain finish on Mt. Baldy, the time trial and barely missing out in the Big Bear stage to a solo breakaway by Sylvain Georges.

"Not knowing the exact details of the route, the GC will come down to Friday [a time trial] and Saturday [the mountain finish on Diablo], but there could be a surprise somewhere out there. Just from looking at the host cities, I see another race for Sagan, maybe one field sprint that caters to more of a pure field sprinter than him. Especially in the Tour of California, he can win any kind of sprint. I see the first four days being built for him.

"There won't be any decisive stages until you get to San Jose [on stage 6]. I think the first stage we'll go up Palomar in the middle of the stage so it's not decisive, but that and the stage into Palmdale and Santa Clarita will be hilly."

Leipheimer expects a return to a classic, flat time trial in San Jose, similar to 2006 when the 27.4km test headed south from Los Paseos toward Morgan Hill. But it is the following stage that Leipheimer thinks will be most exciting - the mountain top finish on Mt. Diablo.

"I do know roughly the route of the Saturday stage, it's going to be a big one, it's going to be a real climbing stage. Finishing on Diablo will be exciting. The area has a huge population and big cycling community. It's going to be a chance for people to line the roads and see a great bike race up an iconic mountain in the area. It's exciting. It's going to be a first for the Bay Area to see the queen stage and a real mountain top finish right there overlooking San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley - it's going to be cool."

Leipheimer's home base in Santa Rosa will host the race for the seventh time - it has been featured in every edition except 2011, but it is the first time the town will host the overall finish.

"For Santa Rosa and Sonoma county it's awesome. We've had the race almost every year. This year we started the race, next year we get to finish the race. It's exciting. People around here love the Tour of California, they come out and support it really well. It's another big year for Santa Rosa."

In the meanwhile, the cases of Bruyneel and Martí are still pending arbitration, so the saga over his doping admissions may not be over for Leipheimer. Until those are closed, he is not free to speak much about the case although he says all the facts are out. However, he says he can still be proud that he told the truth.

"I can definitely be proud of the fact that I told the truth, because I could have not told the truth and that's not acceptable. There's more to be said, but it seems too early. A lot of things need to happen, and a lot of time needs to pass for all of us to understand, myself included, and let time heal some things."

Jeff Youngs More than 1 year ago
Why does cycling even consider allowing those who admit to doping back into competition? I fail to understand how that helps the sport.
Luis Vivanco More than 1 year ago
It's a matter of proportion. Every justice system is based on that. You don't give the same sentence to a petty thief than to a serial murderer. There's the matter of doubt. Testing methods and rationales are far from perfect, and strict liability clauses create an environment in which the innocent may be punished for purely technical reasons, even when not at fault. There's also the matter of redemption and second chances. That's why second time offenders are given a lifetime ban.
NorCalNative More than 1 year ago
This Santa Rosa resident is hoping to see Levi ride the Tour of California in 2013. Levi has made Santa Rosa and Sonoma County a better place to live and ride a bike. I've read the entire reasoned decision and would agree he deserves a second chance. Especially because he's in a position to speak out for cleaner sport.
Paul Anders More than 1 year ago
You have got to be kidding me. He was doping before he was ever on Postal. He had a positive in the US. He doped for 7 years, serving as a role model for new riders and building the doping culture of the team. Only when faced with jail time for perjury and a lifetime ban did he suddenly "confess" in exchange for a six month ban. Now, so that you can enjoy the benefits of his Fondo, a simple "I'm sorry" is enough of an apology? He didn't even own up to his doping when exhorting the riders from the line in the last Fondo. He should retire from pro cycling and take his name and association off of the Fondo. It's no different than what Lance had to do.
RobLettieri More than 1 year ago
All of these athletes that lied and later told the truth should be flushed out of the sport. Start fresh...the same old stories one after another gets old. Credibility is low so it's up to the new guys to reestablish this.
BigBoat More than 1 year ago
Hmm....I dont think it helps to kick guys out for doping. Most confidential studies seem to indicate NFL is cleaner than pro cycling.... and pro cycling has had 2 year-life bans for many years. I read that 100% of the CSC pro cycling team in say 2003 took drugs (based on what Jorg Jachke said)/ and 70% of the offensive line of Denver Broncos took drugs in a confidential survey. So NFL was cleaner even though they have no anti doping.
srankinh More than 1 year ago
"I'll be there to support the race in one way or another," he told Cyclingnews. (Levi)- He should be....he owes his entire career to their (Amgen) juice...haha. Until the day the authorities (UCI / WADA etc) promote and enforce lifetime bans for dopers, no one is serious about cleaning up the sport and doping in general.
Tideplay1 More than 1 year ago
Perhaps only ex dopers should be enrolled in the Tour de EPO Amgen. Amgen, the company of EPO, Ton Weisel, CEO backer of LA and USPS. BAnned them from testing EPO during this tour. Amgen being sued for one billion in fraud and kickbacks. Shouldn't slots for racers who are clean take precedence over those who have doped? Dont people who steal results and money in regular life have to give back the money and pay fines and serve time? He keeps the money, he keeps the salary. He gets a vacation and comes back. I know we who wish accountability are HATERS, mean, liars, nasty people. Geez!!!!! Why do we give this adults a pass. My mother told me if you lick others boots they never respect you. Lets stop coddling these guys.
Cheetah Connelly More than 1 year ago
I have so many problems with why/when/where/how/who did/did not do.....first & foremost....why the wait? If all these guys "did"....then why wait so long....they traded their least twice...once when they "did"....and then again....a second time just to save face & plea bargained out of the remainder of their "careers". This is so sad. As an avid cyclists, racer & fan.....I cannot even get excited about cycling any longer....the lot got a 6 month ban....whereas LA received a lifetime ban.....I guess they all had no scruples when they were "riding" the LA/money very sad.
Eric Blais More than 1 year ago
That is alot of .... in one text... I mean .... what those it really mean... I prefer exclamation points.... try it! They are really cool!
Richard Head More than 1 year ago
There is an error in your reporting. You stated that Mr. Leipheimer is currently serving a six-month ban after admitting to using performance enhancing drugs during the earlier part of his career. It should have stated that he admitted to using PED's for more than 75% of his career and that is if you believe he has stopped taking them. Now he gets a nice 6 month vacation during his off-season after snitching on everyone else and gets to start racing again like nothing ever happened. If they're only getting a 6 month slap on the wrist it shouldn't start until March or April so they miss all the big races. What a joke!
BigBoat More than 1 year ago
So doping isn't the problem, its just "snitching on everybody else" that's the problem.
BillyP More than 1 year ago
Hey Levi, are you out there? You might read these comments and just fade into the Santa Rosa hills. Lying cheaters are out buddy.
Paul Anders More than 1 year ago
Not only should Levi not return to the ToC, he should follow the lead of his former boss, Lance Armstrong, and remove his name from the "Levi Leipheimer's King Ridge GranFondo" event that he is the namesake of, in Santa Rosa, CA. The only reason he achieved enough fame to be the patron of this event was through his doped support of Lance Armstrong and his doping-enhanced victories in other events. For those who think he was just a pawn, read his affidavit. He was doping before he was on Postal, already had a positive in the US, and doped for nearly a decade while taking victories and money from clean riders. He also served as a role model for new riders on Postal and other teams where he doped, who saw his success, knew of his doping, and figured they needed to get on the bandwagon or be left behind. Only when threatened with jail time for perjury and a lifetime ban from cycling did he suddenly get religion and confess to what he did, so that he could get by with a 6-month suspension.