A reassessment of the possum.
While Chris Horner (RadioShack Nissan Trek) has been openly suspicious of rival Levi Leipheimer’s form post-cracked fibula, the results of today’s stage 5 time trial certainly gave some weight to his “playing possum” claim.
Leipheimer clocked the 29,5 kilometer time trial in 17th place, 1:44 behind the flying Captain America of Dave Zabriskie (Garmin Barracuda). That’s over a minute faster than Horner although the defending champion expected to be behind his former teammate coming out of Bakersfield.
It was an impressive ride by Leipheimer. One of the major reasons was the help of his personal physiologist Allen Lim who used to fill that role at RadioShack. We chatted with Lim as he worked the food truck for his new Scratch labs venture.
“After he crashed, he fell back but luckily he had that foundation. Three weeks before the race. he was able to get back on the bike, then the week coming in he lowered the volume to add intensity. He felt ready good the Saturday but racing is a whole different thing,” said Lim.
It’s tough to count out a three time winner and certainly that was the opinion for Horner and Tejay Van Garderen. But according to Lim that was never the true scenario. “The goal was to get him in good enough condition so this race would be productive. We didn’t want him to come here and go backwards and suffer or hurt himself,” said Lim. “By the time he got through that two week block of training we knew he could do this race. He was still better than a lot of the domestic riders or some of the guys coming in from overseas.”
It not an easy thing for a rider like Leipheimer to reset his goals in California. “Obviously it was a re-calibration of expectation. When you come into this race expecting to win, and then you’re thinking I just want to not hurt myself., thats a totally different level of expectation,” said Lim.
That didn’t stop Chris Horner from playing psychological games with Leipheimer. Lim doesn’t see where that came from. “Those guys didn’t see the X-rays, they didn’t see the PT he was doing ever day. They’re looking at him and saying everything looks the same from the outside in terms of how he looks on a bicycle,” said Lim. “That’s the thing — form is like a house with no windows. You look outside and the grass is green, everything appears okay but you don’t realize that the kitchen is a mess and nobody is packing for a few weeks. and that all may not be tip top. I think he was being fair and honest but I also things he has expectations for himself still regardless.”
While things have gone fairly well for the rider from Santa Rosa that hasn’t changed the new reality. “He’s optimistic about having a productive race, he’s not optimistic about winning this race. The rule of thumb that nobody appreciates is that when you’re racing they always expect you’re gonna pull some miracle performance out of your butt but you never do in racing what you haven’t done already in training.”
Chapeau to Leipheimer for his hard fought 17th place. It’s not where he’d hoped to be and the possum quote still irritates him. Then again, Horner is even more irritated by his own performance against the clock.