Levi Leipheimer Interview


08/29/2011| 0 comments
by Thomas A. Valentinsen
Roadcycling.com interviews Levi Leipheimer. Photo Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Roadcycling.com interviews Levi Leipheimer. Photo Fotoreporter Sirotti.

Levi Leipheimer Interview

Roadcycling.com's Thomas A. Valentinsen talks with Levi Leipheimer about his victory in the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge, about riding on US soil, his 2011 season so far, and about his ambitions for the coming seasons.

Roadcycling.com's Thomas A. Valentinsen talks with Levi Leipheimer about his victory in the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge, about riding on US soil, his 2011 season so far, and about his ambitions for the coming seasons.

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge has obviously been a very positive experience for you. Describe to our readers what thoughts and emotions you have experienced during the past week of racing and, not least, today.

"It's hard to put into words and to describe the emotions I've felt and the experience that I've had this week. This victory means so much to me because of the way we raced this week. It took the best form of my life to beat Christian (Vande Velde) and Tejay (Van Garderen). I had to produce some of the best races of my life and the team did a phenomenal job defending the jersey, it took every ounce of energy and motivation we had to pull it off."

How does the USA Pro Cycling Challenge compare to the Amgen Tour of California? Are they very similar races or does the terrain or state cultures influence the races a lot in your opinion?

"That is difficult. I'm a California guy, I live there. I won the first Prologue of the first Amgen Tour of California, so for me that was something extraordinary and when I got to the podium that first day in my hometown of Santa Rosa I was very emotional. At the same time, I didn't expect the USA Pro Cycling Challenge to be so grand on a scale. The crowds, the media attention, the way we raced this week, the way the jersey changed hands: it was a battle tooth-and-nail to the last corner. It's tough to compare the two - we have two huge races in America and I hope they continue. It is fantastic for us to come back here and race on America soil. We've spent years battling it out in the trenches of Europe, so it's great to come back and bring the sport to America on a scale this big."

You have many years of experience with pro road cycling on the roads of Europe. In the past few years pro road cycling has gotten increasingly popular in the USA and the nation now has two well-established pro road cycling events. Does this development surprise you?

"I was 13 years old when I watched the Tour de France on television and I read magazines about the Coors Classic on these roads here in Colorado and the fights between Bernard Hinault, Greg LeMond and Andy Hampsten. To be here 25 years later and to experience the size and the scope of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge is just beyond my expectations. I didn't expect this many people to come out. Today has been the biggest crowd that I've seen in the US and that is really saying something because the Amgen Tour of California has produced some enormous crowds. Today really raised the bar for American cycling."

With the exception of the Tour de Suisse, your RadioShack Team has been rather unsuccessful in Europe in the 2011 season so far - not least as a result of the crashes that you, Andreas Klöden, Chris Horner and Janez Brajkovic suffered in the Tour de France, which - in my impression - was a race that your team had dedicated the most focus to. In the same season your team has delivered fabulous performances on US soil. How important is this success for the future of the team and might it affect how your team weighs its racing in 2012?

"We couldn't have hoped for anything better. We're very fortunate and lucky to have the victories we've had this year - we've had twice as many this year as we did last year. It really comes down to great teamwork and great sponsors. RadioShack has really been behind us the last few years and it really made a difference in our performance."

Your victory margins, however, seem to be decreasing significantly. Does this worry you when taking into account that you are getting older?

"The Tour de Suisse was one of those rare occasions when you pull it off on the last day by a couple of seconds. I can't say I clearly won that race because it was such a tight battle, as this week has been. I've had luck on my side for the last few months - with the exception of July - and luck is always involved in this sport. We work really hard 365 days a year and you have to love the hard work. You can't expect success to happen all the time, but you appreciate it when it comes. It is important to soak it all in because this feels really great. I can't imagine anything better than this right now."

What will you remember your 2011 season for? What have been the high-points and the low-points of your season and how have you coped with the disappointments?

"After the crashes and disappointment of the Tour (de France), I was able to refocus and pick out some smaller goals. I ended up using the Tour as training and in the back of my mind I already had Utah and Colorado in my mind. It couldn't have gone any better. This season is maybe my best ever, though it all went up and down. I had some illness in the beginning. I was riding second in Catalunya and I got sick and had to go to the hospital. I had to fight my way back from a pretty low point in April. But since then I've been super focused. I've been working really hard. I've had the help of my teammates and friends and family."

Taking the 2011 season into account do you still consider yourself a GC contender in the Grand Tours?

"I do believe I still have it in me to contend for a podium at a Grand Tour, I just haven't had great luck since the 2009 Giro d'Italia. I've had crashes, sickness - so many things can happen in this sport. As far as being on a different team, I don't think it really matters. If you're good and you're strong you will come out on top, even if there is someone else on the team that is a potential threat. In the end, the race sorts everything out. We can't perform our best at every race and we can't win them all. If you're good enough to be there and contend then you're going to have a chance."

What do you think is the reason for the great success of US cyclists in US-based races?

"It comes down to mentality and motivation. Look at Garmin(-Cervélo) this week. The entire team was phenomenal. This is their home state and it took some of the best form of my career to win. These guys showed the Europeans that if they come to the U.S. to compete against Americans, they better expect a fight."

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions and for sharing your thoughts with our loyal Roadcycling.com and Roadcycling.mobi roaders.

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