Omega Pharma-QuickStep still hopeful for Amgen Tour of California
Recovering in his hometown of Santa Rosa, California, Levi Leipheimer of Omega Pharma-QuickStep spoke to Cyclingnews about his accident and how this will impact his season.
While out training alone the day before the start of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, Leipheimer was struck from behind by a car, which he estimates was traveling between 50 to 60 miles per hour.
"I found myself on this big road that I never would ride on and I thought ‘I need to get off this,'" Leipheimer told Cyclingnews. "There was a sign saying 700 meters ahead there was a road to turn (to get off the road), and I was going to take it."
"I kinda actually visualized it happening (getting hit by the car) about 500 meters before it happened. It was really freaky. My first thought (after the accident) was, ‘Did I just do that to myself?' It was really traumatic."
Initially there was only soreness and swelling of his lower leg with the brunt of the damage taken by his bike, which was completely destroyed.
"He (the driver) told the police he didn't see me at all."
With his plan to race the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco scrapped, Leipheimer returned to the United States for a more comprehensive medical evaluation.
"You didn't need to be a doctor to see that the fibula was broken. In the x-ray it was easy to see."
Since then Leipheimer has had three orthopedic surgeons look at the x-ray, and they have said it wasn't a complicated break and should heal on its own.
"They actually said I could get on the trainer this weekend. It's just a matter of taking care of myself, ease into the riding and go off of the pain. Hopefully I'm not off the bike for very long."
The reason for the quick return to pedaling is that the broken bone isn't weight bearing and the only issue is clipping in and out of the pedals as that can torque the leg.
"Just pedaling lightly shouldn't be that much of a problem. I have to try it out. Right now I'm not ready – I'll be taking it day by day."
Doctors say that it will be four weeks before the bone is completely healed. That has put a damper on his season's plans which include the upcoming Amgen Tour of California.
"Obviously the Amgen Tour of California is a big goal for me and the team, and there's a lot of pressure. The race starts in Santa Rosa (Leipheimer's hometown - Ed.), I've won three times before and I want to win again."
"Mentally I can't stay bummed out as that's not going to help me. I'm at Point A right now and the Amgen Tour of California is Point B -I can only go so fast in between. I'm just trying my best to recover as quickly as possible and get back into shape. If I don't make it, I don't make it. All I can say is I'll do my best."
When asked if in a perfect scenario his fitness is where it needs to be for California, how does he beat his former teammate and now defending Amgen Tour of California champion Chris Horner?
"Beat him in the time trial and follow him on the climbs," Leipheimer explained succinctly.
"He's climbing really well, but I can stay with him. I can beat him in a time trial – but that's a perfect world and being in my best form."
While the injury has potentially ruined his chances at performing at his best in the Golden State, it might actually help him in the Tour de France and the Olympic Games which follow.
"Again, I can't stay in that mental place and be bummed out. I need to look at the positive side. I'm the kind of guy that likes to race well at all the races I do. I don't like it when I'm not riding well – I like to train hard. This is going to be an experiment and maybe taking time off the bike and getting out of shape will pay off in July as I'll be there feeling fresh."
With 100 kilometers of total time trials in this year's Tour de France combined with Leipheimer's strength in this discipline, the American could be considered a podium challenger. How does the Omega Pharma- QuickStep team balance Leipheimer's general classification hopes with teammate Tom Boonen's possible run at the green jersey?
"We're not the team that does the full-on lead out. Tom is only going to need one or two guys – that's how most teams operate," said Leipheimer.
"Sky is a little different. Cavendish has won 20 Tour (de France) stages and they are going to have the responsibility to close down the breakaways more than we would. Wiggins is one of the favorites and this course suits him well."
"We're not the five-star favorites and that changes how many guys you need for Tom and how many guys you need for me. It's hard to talk tactics because unless you're in the race, it's hard to know what it's like."
Leipheimer used the example of teammate Kevin De Weert as an unsung worker of the team. When called upon the Belgian has been the consummate teammate to Boonen and Leipheimer.
"I can tell you so far in the races I've done: San Luis, Paris-Nice, and Catalunya, everyone has pitched in. Everyone has done work for each other and that's definitely one of the reasons why we are having such a great year."
Just ten days after the conclusion of the Tour de France, the Olympic time trial is the next big season objective. However, only one rider will be chosen to represent the United States in the race against the clock.
"I've shown in Tour de San Luis (where he won the time trial) I can go fast and also in the Paris-Nice prologue. I was looking forward to the Pais Vasco time trial – I thought that was going to be a good place to show again. I think I've shown so far that I deserve this spot."
"I have a bronze medal from the last Games. Of course someone can go out and win a big time trial – I can't control that. But, like I've said, I'll be fresh for the Tour and the Olympics because of the accident."
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