Levi Leipheimer. Mr. Serious in Belgium.
News flash we didn’t read: “Chris Horner says Leipheimer must show up in better shape for California.”
While the candid Horner did state that his new RadioShack-Nissan Trek teammate Andy Schleck had better arrive in France in better form than last year, nobody questions Leipheimer when it comes to insane preparation.
Leipheimer is as serious and committed as a man gets. In fact, his friend and former Radio Shack physiologist told us this year that it’s almost “tragic” how focused Leipheimer is about training. In other words, he’s no Tom Boonen.
This last year Leipheimer won the Tour of Utah and US Pro Cycling Challenge and bagged second in the Tour of California. In one of the most amazing performances of his career, he came from behind to win the Tour de Suisse on the final day time trial by four seconds.
Now he’s bring his obsessive attention to training to Belgium and his new Quick Step team. He’s not just bringing his stage race chops, he’s bringing Patrick Lefevere’s boys a new approach.
“I think it’s cool that Patrick and the squad that was already in place are open to that. Everyone realizes that cycling is changing we need to evolve with that,” said Leipheimer.
The evolution he’s talking about is and end to the old school traditions of cycling — the buckets of pasta and endless base miles. When progressive teams like Garmin and HTC-Columbia and now Sky starting winning lots of races, it was clear that the new methods worked wonders.
“The whole move has been an exciting time. Yes, historically this has been a classics-orientated team, but they’re willing to open up to a new age, thinking like HTC did or Sky is now,” said Leipheimer. “I think that a lot of the group that came from HTC, they’re going to add a lot to the team.
That would be DS Brian Holm, time trial monster Tony Martin and Peter and Martin Velits. Then there’s Leipheimer with his special mouthguard, cooling convection vest, Normatec compression boots and of course, a worn copy of Allen Lim’s Feedzone Cookbook. No more frites for those Belgians — except for Lefevere who gets his daily allotment of six beers and two packets of fries.
Leipheimer is bringing his Quick Step team to California and it’s not to finish in second place like he did last year. He’s won the race three times and this year he’ll have to try to knock off former-teammate and reigning champion Chris Horner.
“California means a lot to me so I’m going to have to figure out a way of being at my best there and then being at my best in July. It’s not impossible,” said Leipheimer. “You won’t see Andy Schleck doing that – but it’s different, California is more important to me and you try and figure out your situation with what you’ve got.”
One thing is for sure and Horner would be the first to tell you: Leipheimer will be ready.