Impressive Horner & more traffic snarls

July 15, 2005

Today was, well, another fast hard day in the Tour de France. We had a huge tailwind (the favorable kind of wind) in the beginning so I was spun out in the eleven immediately. It was also really hot, like the rest of Europe right now. The break went early on. Eventually Lampre and Lotto started chasing and at that point it started to get tough. The tailwind turned into headwind, crosswind and constant gusts of hot air.

By the time we pulled into the finishing city of Montpellier guys starting attacking because the chasing teams were done for the day. By done, I mean tired. This is when the break changed up and it eventually ended up being Chris Horner and Sylvain Chavanel.

Chris was out there all day long and got caught with maybe twenty meters to go. It was an impressive race for him. I think he ended up getting tenth place. He and Sylvain were both caught before the finish.

Then we piled into the bus and drove five inches and then sat there for a long time. I'm not going to complain about it again but imagine what it's like for thousands of people to leave one spot at the same time in a French city. The thing with European cities is that they were never really planned for cars and bike races. They were initially built to confuse invaders so they couldn't leave and they would kill them or something. Then more and more city was built around it over the years in pieces here and there so nothing has any kind of order or symmetry.

Anyone who's ever tried to find their hotel in Europe knows what I'm talking about. Obviously we don't have to do the navigating but sometimes we pass things twice on the way to the hotel if you know what I mean. We're a car full of salty, hungry, grumpy, thirsty bike racers who need showers and beds and massages. Would you like to drive us around? I guess it must be more stressful for the driver than anyone.

Well, tomorrow is a good day for me. Better get some sleep.

See you back here!

July 14, 2005

A special French day

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,

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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.