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Former alpine racer leading Dauphiné Libéré

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Levi Leipheimer, former USSA alpine racer and Rowmark Ski Academy alumnus, is leading the Dauphiné Libéré cycling race in France after coming in second in the June 8th time trial. He beat many Toud de France hopefuls, including Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, Andres Klöden (2nd in the 2004 TdF), and Alex Vinokourov (3rd in the 2003 TdF). Levi's skiing form seems to come in handy in terms of his aero position (look at the pics at VeloNews to see).

The race has its most difficult stage today, a stage that ends with a climb up Mont Ventoux, possibly the most difficult climb in France (even harder than l'Alpe d'Huez). Lance is calling Levi the favorite to take Ventoux and the entire race, but who knows?

At any rate, it's great to see a former alpine racer doing well in pro cycling. Also worth noting is that U.S. riders currently occupy four of the top five positions overall in a field that features most of the top TdF riders.
post #2 of 20
Levi made a critical decision to give up ski racing for cycling and never looked back. I'm sure after Rowmark a lot of people thought he chose wrong.

His story would make a great movie of the week: athlete with talent, dedication and devotion takes up the lesser of his two sports professionally, signs million-dollar contract to join team of huge international bank, and rides to victory and fame, carrying on the winning tradition of his hero Lance Armstrong.
post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 
nolo: tell me about it! I've known Levi since high school, and was teammates with him when he attended Rowmark (I graduated a year before he did). He was an incredibly talented skier, with an incredible feel for the snow. I remember when he and I went free skiing at Big Mountain (before the FIS downhills), and he led me full-tilt (probably going 55-60 mph) off a HUGE waterfall bump. He soared off, in full tuck, getting such graceful air and landing so softly. I recall the ground simply disappearing under me and a helluva flight. He just had incredible intuition for line, something that has translated well to cycling.

He also was the most physically fit person on the team by a huge margin - Olle Larsson still calls him the standard to which all Rowmark athletes still aspire.

But I also remember cycling with him, and he was very tough. I tried to keep up with him on our time trials up Emigration Canyon, and he'd smoke my butt in the last climbs (I'd usually finish a minute behind - cycling is my "second love" sport behind skiing). And then he set the record at the Snowbird Hill Climb the summer after he graduated (still racing amateur for a local team), getting the attention of the Saturn cycling team.

From there, it was onward an upward: U.S. Postal picked him up a couple years after that; he went on to place third in the Vuelta d'España (beating Roberto Heras, the man he was supposed to be supporting); left USPS for Rabobank; two top-tens in the Tour de France (the second one after recovery from major surgery and a horrible crash in the 2003 TdF); leaves Rabobank to lead the Gerolsteiner team; and now some impressive riding in the Tour of Georgia and the Dauphiné.

He's still got the lead over Lance, and looks very strong going into the Tour. His biggest liability is that the Gerolsteiner team doesn't have the strongest support squad of riders, so Levi may have to go it (mostly) alone. But he's shown incredible strength over the years, so anything is possible.
post #4 of 20
I skied Big Sky with Levi when he was about 11; he and I were buddies by default at a PSIA exam that his dad and my husband were working. I don't think I've ever had more fun skiing than during those two days bushwacking with Levi, where our object was not to ski marked trails.
post #5 of 20
It has been my experience that Alpine racers make better bike racers than cross country skiers. Guess Alpine isn't as easy as some might think. Even Jean Claude Killy had a good career as a masters bike racer.

Levi did a great job on the Ventoux today and still leads the race
post #6 of 20
Levi obviously is someone with great genes and a tough constitution. when you take those two and apply focused work you get results of the sort he's now experiencing.

when I was at his family's shop in Butte several months ago, I talked to the folks there about his new team and his moving out from under the shadow of other big American cyclist names. I think that move was crucial for Levi's cycling development.

*******************

now, at lower levels -- among the mortals I know -- the better cyclists are folks who train in the winter with nordic skiing.

of course this "better" has to do with fitness and power, not line selection or terrain reading. bicycle racing in the road and XC disciplines don't have too much to offer in the realm of line selection, but they have lots to offer in the realm of "laying down the power while suffering huge".
post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 
Yeah, it seems that most avid cyclists are also avid XC skiers - the aerobic demands of each sport are very complimentary, and many similar muscle groups are used. Also, XC skiers are often very lean, as are cyclists.

But the best alpine racers also tend to be good cyclists, either road or ATB. Hermann Maier rode the prologue at the 2003 Tour de France, and even finished with a halfway competitive time. As noted before, Killy was a good cyclist, as was Stenmark. Girardelli put on a lot of road cycling kilometers after his knee surgeries (it's a good controlled-movement form of aerobic exercise). Juli Furtado (great college alpine racer) went on to become the UCI World Mountain Bike champion in the mid-1990s after she hung up the boards.

In Levi's case, cycling was a huge part of his off-season (and in-season) fitness regimen. It just happened that cycling eventually proved the bigger pull, with greater potential for success. And given that he's paid the big money by Gerolsteiner, my guess is that alpine skiing isn't a big part of his life - too much risk to the knees and legs for worried accountants. Besides, there's not exactly a huge off-season for pro cyclists.
post #8 of 20
Awesome riding by Levi! Can he be a challenger to Lance in the tour? I would love to see Vino or Landis or Levi win this year. That's really cool that a number of you know Levi! I hope he can hold on to that leader's jersey!
post #9 of 20
songfta, any idea on why McKibben ran instead : Long Distance

Drinking Gerolsteiner 'cuz its the best tasting German sewer water, not just the bike sponsorship.
post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by gonzostrike
-- among the mortals I know -- the better cyclists are folks who train in the winter with nordic skiing.

of course this "better" has to do with fitness and power, not line selection or terrain reading. bicycle racing in the road and XC disciplines don't have too much to offer in the realm of line selection, but they have lots to offer in the realm of "laying down the power while suffering huge".
Interesting subject. Lemond was a freestyle skier. Tyler Hamilton skied for CU. Kent Bostick, a multi time national champion who made the US Olympic team at 41 was a college Alpine racer. In my first bike race I showed up on a heavy touring bike for a spring time trial and finished second to the state champion. Guess a hundred days of running gates that winter did something for my thighs.

It seems that lots of bike racers train with XC skiing but few XC skiers make it big in cycling. The best I've seen was Mike Deveka, a Nordic Combined skier. Certainly Alpine skiers are more able to handle going shoulder to shoulder with tires a few inches apart in a downtown criterium, or screaming down a mountain pass. There may be more to the line selection than meets the eye.
post #11 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cantunamunch
songfta, any idea on why McKibben ran instead : Long Distance
No idea, whatsoever. I guess the guy likes to run.

:::shrug:::
post #12 of 20
I had no idea Levi was an alpine racer. One xc crossover is Carl Swenson a long time pro xc mountain bike racer and a member of the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team.
post #13 of 20
Thread Starter 
Just thinking "aloud" here: I think that one reason that XC skiers seldom become competitive cyclists is that sprinting is seldom a big part of XC racing. Yes, the XC folk have the endurance, but having the ability to instantaneously kick it up into full sprint mode takes a very different physical ability set.

Just thinking here - nothing scientific implied.
post #14 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by songfta
Just thinking "aloud" here: I think that one reason that XC skiers seldom become competitive cyclists is that sprinting is seldom a big part of XC racing. Yes, the XC folk have the endurance, but having the ability to instantaneously kick it up into full sprint mode takes a very different physical ability set.

Just thinking here - nothing scientific implied.
I think you're probably right. People don't realize how stop and go road racing is. Sprints don't just occur at the end, they also are part of breaking up the pack. Steve Larsen, former national xc mtb champ, and former teamate of Lance believes his lack of explosivness coupled with an ability to go hard for long periods is the reason he was a better mtb racer than road racer.

I thought about Carl Swenson. He has a motor which is simply amazing, but really isn't that great of a cyclist for someone with that aerobic capacity. Maybe it's the same phenomenon.
post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quick update on Levi: he's no longer leading the Dauphiné. A Spanish rider, Inigo Landaluze, staged a breakaway near the end of today's stage, leaving all of the top U.S. riders 7:21 behind his time, and thus wresting the jersey from Levi. There are still stages remaining in the race, so he could still eke out a win with some great riding.
post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by songfta
Just thinking "aloud" here: I think that one reason that XC skiers seldom become competitive cyclists is that sprinting is seldom a big part of XC racing. Yes, the XC folk have the endurance, but having the ability to instantaneously kick it up into full sprint mode takes a very different physical ability set.

Just thinking here - nothing scientific implied.
I think it would depend on the terrain typically skied nordic.

Skate skiers aren't exactly lacking in explosive power. That's what most of my nordic friends do, and they do it in very hilly terrain.

But then again, not a one of them is a powerful sprinter on the bicycle, so you might be onto something, scientific or not!
post #17 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by newfydog
I think you're probably right. People don't realize how stop and go road racing is. Sprints don't just occur at the end, they also are part of breaking up the pack. Steve Larsen, former national xc mtb champ, and former teamate of Lance believes his lack of explosivness coupled with an ability to go hard for long periods is the reason he was a better mtb racer than road racer.

I thought about Carl Swenson. He has a motor which is simply amazing, but really isn't that great of a cyclist for someone with that aerobic capacity. Maybe it's the same phenomenon.
while I"m a mere piker at bike racing, I am pretty attuned to what my particular strenghts and weaknesses are. on a road ride I can hold a good powerful cadence for a decent period of time. but sprint off the front leaving me behind, and you dust me for good. my friends like to have me as the puller on group rides and I don't too much mind as long as they don't do any sprints on the climbs... on the flats I'm usually okay.

first time I rode on the road with a few of my strongest MTB riding friends (one of whom used to race road and mtb for Curtis Inglis at Retrotec), they commented on my locomotive power on the flats, smooth cadence, etc. but at the end of the ride, the one dude who raced for Retrotec hammered out a sprint that crushed me. I limped home.

I guess I"m saying I'm a 4th rate Steve Larsen or something.
post #18 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by songfta
Quick update on Levi: he's no longer leading the Dauphiné. A Spanish rider, Inigo Landaluze, staged a breakaway near the end of today's stage, leaving all of the top U.S. riders 7:21 behind his time, and thus wresting the jersey from Levi. There are still stages remaining in the race, so he could still eke out a win with some great riding.
A couple things going on here. First Levi's team, Gerolsteiner is not strong enough to control the field. Second, the top riders are just here for training and evalation of form. Lance started the day 21 seconds out of first, but as he said he has won the Dauphine' before, and it's time for other riders to have a shot. He saw Iban Mayo exhaust hinself in last year's Dauphine' and show up for the Tour past his peak.

Discovery didn't chase, Gerolsteiner couldn't. It really is a team sport.
post #19 of 20

from Velo News

Upward trajectory: Q&A with Levi Leipheimer

By Andrew Hood, VeloNews European correspondent

This report filed June 21, 2005

__________________________________________________ ______________

Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) will enter this year's Tour de France with a much different profile than his three previous starts. After what he calls a three-year apprenticeship at Rabobank, a newly confident Leipheimer is ready to aim for the podium. After his impressive performance at the Dauphiné Libéré, where he finished third overall and missed winning two stages by less than a second, Leipheimer knows he can ride with the best under any conditions.

Leipheimer answered journalists' questions about his past, his present and his future... at least through July. Here's what he had to say:

Question: What have you done since the Tour de Georgia and is your progression on target for the Tour?

Levi Leipheimer: I haven't raced since the Tour de Georgia and I actually took 10 days of rest, because it's important to recharge mentally and physically. I've been training really hard since then, sometimes I thought too hard, but obviously not.

Q: What are your expectations for the Tour?

LL: After last year, when I finished ninth, I said to myself that I want to be in the top 5 and with a little bit of luck, I can be on the podium on the Champs Elysées. I don't want to finish eighth or ninth again. If I find myself in that position, maybe I will risk it a little more and go for a stage-win.


Q: What difference has it made switching to Gerolsteiner?

LL: I don't think we can say it's that one team works better than another for the reason why I'm riding better. I've matured. I've changed teams, which has given me new motivation, a fresh start and a clean slate. As soon as I did that I had more motivation that ever, because I had a rebirth, I could leave all the mistakes I had behind, but take that experience with me.

Q: You seem like a new rider this year, is that true?

LL: I am more confident. To explain a little bit, when you're a rider and when you're on a team, like when I was on U.S. Postal, I was not a big rider. I was the rider to do small races that no one else wanted to go to. Then I had my grand tour in the Vuelta and I really showed what I could do. I was a bit thrown into the fire, by going to Rabobank and leading in the Tour de France. It's very stressful, it's a bit scary. I wasn't afraid, to be honest it's all a bit overwhelming. Then I had the bad crash, so it takes a couple of years to get to that level and being comfortable riding next to Lance and Jan. I think it's a question of maturity. I'm still the same person; I just have a different mentality.


Q: Three or four years ago, you made the transition from helper to team leader, has that gone as well as you've hoped?

LL: When I earned third place at the 2001 Vuelta, it was my first grand tour. The next year, in my first Tour de France, I was eighth place. I thought that was pretty good. The next year I had a big crash and broke my hip. After that, I had another ninth place. For three years, I've had the chance to learn about the Tour de France and learn all the things about preparing, etc. Now I have all the confidence and another mentality about the Tour. It's not normal to think about winning the Tour the first time you race it.

Q: How do you see Armstrong this year?

LL: He's definitely the favorite. You can't win six Tours in a row and not be the favorite, even if he's a little bit behind, which apparently he is. You can't be so sure he went 100 percent today. Maybe he was 99 percent. For sure, he's only using this race for training and I have no doubt he will be his best in July when the real mountains start at the Tour. He's the favorite.

Q: Who can win the Tour this year?

LL: After Lance, there are many. I see Ullrich, Vinokourov, me, Landis, I have no idea. The thing that's sure about the Tour is it will be a big spectacle.
post #20 of 20
I try to follow bike racing but I really didn't remember Levi finishing top ten twice in TDF. I guess you've answered my question, ryan. Thanks!
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