Running naked

July 21, 2005

Guess what today's stage was like? You guessed it! Fast and hard. Not to mention really hot. So hot that one guy had to take all of his clothes off to cool down. Not a racer thankfully, a fan.

If you watched the coverage maybe you saw him running with us. You just never know what you're going to see at the tour. You do know that you're going to see a lot of people acting crazy on the side of the road - but naked?

The race started gradually up hill for 30 kilometres with a tailwind. It was hard. I think a lot of guys want to do something in the race now that their opportunities are getting fewer and fewer.

After about 50 kilometres a break of ten got away. Discovery rode tempo and let the break get up to 15 minutes at one point. There were two climbs at the end of the race so everyone was racing to get into position. CSC was riding hard on the front. Once we hit the climbs it just broke up into small groups.

I ended up in a group with Vino, Rasmussen and Mancebo. We dropped Mancebo and I was certain he was back with the cars when we hit the top but then he suddenly appeared out of nowhere. I don't know how he was so far back one minute and then with us the next. So I wasn't able to gain any time on him.

Everyone is scrambling now to move up in the GC, hold onto their position or get a stage win. Obviously I would like to move into fifth place. Tomorrow is another hard day. There are a couple of second and third category climbs. It's always up and down and guys will be attacking for their last chance at a stage win - we've only got the time trial and the finale in Paris after tomorrow's stage so it's getting down to the wire.

I'm looking forward to unpacking my suitcase for more than two days but the racing is nowhere near over. Stay tuned for tomorrow's stage.


July 20, 2005

Another day of punishment

Today was another lesson in pain. The course profile looked like the edge of a saw for starters. A 240 kilometre saw blade. The entire day was up two kilometres, down two kilometres and so on. There were absolutely no flat spots.

At one point one of my teammates rode up along side me on one of the little climbs and said, "do you know that there are 40 of these today?". He counted them on the profile. I didn't mention it in my diary but I crashed yesterday. It wasn't really bad but I lost some skin from riding into the ditch. I figured everything was fine but I was relieved when the race started and everything felt normal.

It started out really fast and the field broke up on the first third category climb somewhere around the 22 kilometre mark. It came back together eventually and that's when the break went. After that Discovery assumed their position on the front riding tempo. By the time the break reached 22 minutes they stopped working and let some other teams take over.

Credit Agricole pulled for a while and then with about 30 kilometers to go T Mobile went to the front and just stepped on the gas. All of their guys took turns on the front as hard as they could and the last guy before Jan was Vino. He went so fast into the final three kilometre climb that only ten of us remained. Then Ullrich attacked. It hurt. Did I mention that? And did I mention how fast we were going?

Someone told me it didn't even look like a climb on TV because of the speed, but my legs will tell you that it was a climb.

Tomorrow we get more of the same punishment at the end of the race. We finish on a super steep three kilometre climb. I can't wait for that one. I think I'm getting more mentally tired than anything. It starts to happen around this time in the Tour. The driving, the late hours, the early mornings and of course the racing. I'm having fun of course, but if I stop making sense in the next couple of days maybe you'll understand.

Speaking of fun, our team had barbecues the past few nights at our hotel in Pau. The hotel staff wouldn't let our cooks in the kitchen again so they cooked out on the grill and we all sat around listening to the adventures of the staff.

I learned that the real action begins when the racers go to bed. They have soccer games, they roll each other down streets in garbage cans and lots of other interesting things I can't write about. It was pretty cool, and for a couple hours it didn't feel like we were in the middle of the Tour.

Better get some sleep!

See you 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.