Poor Levi Leipheimer

by Jack  

Levi Leipheimer is currently the top American cyclist in the pro peloton. He's been that way ever since Lance Armstrong retired in 2005. Sure, there's been Floyd Landis for a quick moment, but that's another story. Throughout Levi's career, he's always shown the potential to do great things. His first real breakout party came at the Vuelta (where he is currently racing right now) in 2001 when he placed 3rd while riding for the United States Postal Service team of Armstrong. From then on, Levi switched teams, hoping to challenge for bigger and better races such as the Tour de France.

First he was with Rabobank, where he made the top 10 a few times and then to Gerolsteiner where he almost won a mountain stage in 2006. At the end of the 2006 season, Levi decided to return to Johan Bruyneel and race for the Discovery Channel team. This seemed to be the perfect fit. Discovery Channel just lost the retiring Armstrong and was looking for a new leader to replace him and it ended up being a bonus that it was another American. For Levi, this was a dream scenario. He now has the means and the support needed to win the Tour de France. All seemed good leading into the 2007 season.

As Team Discovery prepped at the end of 2006 for the upcoming season, a rather unexpected new team member was about to join them. In what was the biggest blunder move of both Johan and Lance, they decided to take a chance at signing Italian Ivan Basso. Basso was released from Team CSC after the Operation Puerto affair of the 2006 Tour but was not found guilty of any wrong doing. Discovery thought the risk of a possibly tarnished name was well worth it because Basso was even more of a sure thing to win the Tour the following year. As a result, Levi had to take a step back. This had to be a disappointment even if he never showed it in public. On a side note, the team also signed a young Spanish talent by the name of Alberto Contador, hoping to groom him for the future.

We all know what happened to Ivan Basso. He left the team in early 2007 just moments before he admitted to "attempted" doping. Basso's outcome surely excited Levi. He will once again be the leader of the very strong Discovery team at the Tour in a few months.

July 2007 rolls around and another Tour will start without a defending champion. There are the usual suspects leading the contenders list such as Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre and Levi himself. Levi's Tour started out slow but he more than came into form in the last week. But unfortunately for him, his teammate Contador had already moved into the driver's seat with his powerful and explosive climbing ability. Thanks to Michael Rasmussen's dismissal, Contador slid into the yellow jersey and was poised to win his first Tour de France. Once again, Levi had to play second fiddle. As a consolation, Levi did finish 3rd overall and won the final time trial, claiming his first Tour stage win.

Levi, being the consummate professional did not complain one bit and continued to win other races. He will be 35 years old when the 2009 Tour de France begins in Monaco. Having already missed the 2008 Tour thanks to ASO, Levi's chances of being competitive (let alone winning) at the Tour are dwindling. With Alberto Contador leading a new wave of talent, Levi would have to prove that he is stronger than Contador to get the freedom to attack, making it more difficult for him to win. And this predicament was before Lance Armstrong announced his return to the peloton!

Poor Levi, will he ever get a chance win the Tour? Will he, at the very least, enter the Tour as the undisputed leader ever again? I certainly hope so. Or I hope that he can show that he is the stronger cyclist to have the support needed to win. But if Lance Armstrong returns to Astana, Levi's chances would be completely shot. 2009 could be his final season of being competitive at the Tour so he will have to seize the opportunity and hope everyone else falters.

I've followed Levi's career for a long time and nothing will make me happier than for Levi to win the Tour. But he has just had the worst luck when it comes to team organization since he returned to Bruyneel's camp. Ironically, he's had the best results of his career too, which is maybe why he is content on sharing responsibilities with Contador. This is tough for me because I like Contador as well and I like to see the team succeed. But putting my positive feelings for Contador aside, I would like to see Levi be given the opportunity to ride his own race. This year's Vuelta is a perfect example. Most fans will agree that Levi could win this year's race hands down. But he's currently sitting in 2nd place, not allowed to attack while Contador is in the lead. Would he be in first place if he was allowed to attack? Who knows? But I would love to find out! I secretly hope that Levi kicks ass during the penultimate stage's final uphill time trial to claim the golden jersey in enough time to ride into Madrid as the winner. But I'm afraid that Contador is just too strong.

So as we enter the 2009 season, what will it bring for Levi? No doubt, he'll be successful but will he be successful in July? Whether Lance is on the team or not, I know Levi will be ready to win! Let's hope he's given the opportunity to show the world that desire.

Let Levi Ride!

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Comment from: Bryan [Visitor]
4 stars

Saw your blog on blog catalog and decided to check it out. Nice blog and articles.

You’re right, it seems like Levi can’t get a break in setting himself up for a big win in July. I wonder if he ever will.

I subscribed to your feed.

09/18/08 @ 21:26
Comment from: [Member]

Thanks Bryan. I appreciate your comment and have visited your site as well. You have a very good story to tell. Thanks again.

09/21/08 @ 20:28
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