What was little Levi Leipheimer thinking in Utah? Follow up question: What was Patrick Lefevere, the experienced team boss of the Omega Pharma Quickstep team, thinking?
Our only answer is that plane tickets from Europe to Utah must have gone up in price and that sales of skin lotion, cold remedies and anti-parasite medicine are down — to say nothing of quarterly sales of composite flooring.
Omega-Pharma Quickstep, the number one ranked team after the Spring classics and heroics of superstar Tom Boonen, brought just five riders to support defending champion Leipheimer in his bid to repeat his victory.
What was odd was that for all his experience, Leipheimer insisted that having two less guys for the stage 2 team time trial wouldn’t be a problem. He claimed it would be more of a issue trying to control the road stages.
Well, no worries about chasing down breaks and keeping dangerous riders on a short leash now. Leipheimer and his undermanned squad lost two minutes in the 21.7 kilometer course on Miller Motorsports Park — Larry H made his money in auto parts and car dealerships.
How much is one more hotel room for a week in Utah? Could OPQS just not fork over the extra cash for two more riders? The plan sure seems to have backfired because a two minute deficit to powerful squads like stage winner Garmin-Sharp and the big boys at RadioShack-Nissan-Trek is a hopeless situation.
Now Leipheimer isn’t alone in being outnumbered. Liquigas-Cannondale brought just five riders to support newly crowned American road race champion Timmy Duggan. Liquigas is stopping their sponsorship at the end of the season so maybe they’re already turning off the spigot. Go Timmy and good luck!
You have to wonder about priorities. RadioShack-Nissan-Trek, beset for months with rumors of non-payment of salaries, has eight guys on the start line in Utah. Operating on a minuscule budget, the EPM-UNE team still brought a full squad from Colombia. Yet, two teams with American bike sponsors Specialized and Cannondale decided to send only six to the home race.
According to the Omega-Pharma Quickstep roster for the US Pro Cycling Challenge, Leipheimer will also defend his Colorado title with five guys. Poor Levi Leipheimer. First a Spanish lady fractures his leg with her car, then team management doesn’t give him enough legs to defend his Utah and Colorado victories. It’s a tough sport no matter how you look at it.