A special French day

July 14, 2005

Today we started in Briancon, the highest city in Europe. It's about 1,200 metres I think.

It's also Bastille Day, which is a big deal because it's like France's Fourth of July, so the French riders are typically aggressive in this stage. Today was no exception. It was very fast from the get go and we started on a slight descent on a big road. It was pretty easy to sit in on the wheels.

At first nine guys got away, but the Liquigas team was chasing and we ended up catching them at the bottom of a climb. We got up the climb really fast before a group went away at the top. That was about it. There weren't many of us left at the top, maybe 35 or so, but it came back together on the descent.

Then Discovery chased the rest of the day and it was pretty easy to sit in. Well, actually at first Lotto tried to chase the break because the two guys ahead of McEwen for the sprinters jersey were in the move. They didn't make much progress and actually lost time, so Discovery took over. The ending of today's saga was a happy one - a French rider won the stage and made his country proud.

What else can I tell you about my day? Our dinner was amazing as usual. We have the best cooks with us at this race. It was a pretty typical tour day - wake up, eat, pack bags, get in bus and head to start. My hotel is ok tonight but last night they put me in a smoking room.

One of the team doctors offered to trade with me which was really cool. I can't deal with the smell of smoke and the smell of old smoke is even worse. That's one of the toughest things to accept when you come to Europe. You finish a six hour training ride and you go to dinner and end up smoking a pack of cigarettes (second hand smoke) because everyone in the restaurant is smoking.

Well, I'm tired now and there are some tough ones coming up so I had better get some sleep.

Until tomorrow,

July 13, 2005

Taking on the Galibier

Hi everyone,

School is still in. Yesterday professor Discovery taught a lesson on how to ride your bike like a motorcycle. Today's lesson was how to ride your bike like Valentino Rossi's motorcycle. It was fast.

Vino and Botero attacked at the bottom of the Madeleine and Discovery rode hard on the front all day after that.

I felt good but the Galibier was hard. Discovery still had five guys in a group of about sixteen which is crazy - I was hurting when Savoldelli was pulling. Discovery basically kept Vino and Botero within a safe enough distance and then really stepped on the gas over the top of the Galibier.

Over the top they had more than three minutes, and at the finish it was just over one minute. Considering we had a full-on technical descent and then false flat descending for 25km, it was scary at times. I was pedaling full the entire way just to stay on the wheel.

Did I mention that we were going fast? Riding through roundabouts was, well, let's just say exciting.

So in general, it was a good day. Tomorrow will be tough. There are five categorised climbs, but in between these climbs lie a constant supply of other climbs who don't quite make it onto the categorised list. It all adds up at the end of the day.

So I hope my motorcycle is well tuned up for tomorrow - I hope I have a motorcycle.

Thanks for coming along,


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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.