Levi Leipheimer did his up-close-and-personal with supporter Fat Cyclist. (It was sort of an Oprah-Lite experience — we were hoping for tears and perhaps a cathartic breakdown but the tough guy wouldn’t choke up.) We did however learn a few essential things about the guy that we didn’t know beforehand.
First, Levi has spotty internet at his stylish and expensive Santa Rosa home. Does this make sense for an athlete in an international sport? Second, he doesn’t like the idea of boiling frogs and third, he’s “living a life of redemption.” (Maybe the penance includes less time streaming video on the web.)
The three-time winner of the Tour of California (clean!) also wants to race his bike again. “The motivation is there, the passion is there. I’d love to be able to continue, not have to stop like this,” said Leipheimer.
Well, good luck with that one. Motivation is great and so is passion but then there’s that crucial third element: a job offer. We don’t see one coming — except maybe from some freak place like Danish cycling half-way house Christina Watches — the home of bald scofflaws like Michael Rasmussen and Stefan Schumacher.
Twisted Spoke has already evaluated his WorldTour chances — which we rate at near zero. When even Alexander Vinokourov’s Astana squad attempts to join the Movement for Credible Cycling, you see the desperation to appear clean.
Then we took a quick look at the domestic options further down the cycling totem pole and that doesn’t look promising either. Although we’re putting a plug in for Jelly Belly.
You want redemption? How about little Levi in a crazy candy jersey and handing out jelly beans to the kids? Rehabilitation through sugar. Nevertheless, we think it’s going to be a struggle for Leipheimer to come up with a good ride for his Tour of California.
We tried to get a top domestic DS to comment anonymously about Levi’s chances and he refused. That gives you an idea of the toxic element of Levi’s resume. Yes, he’s still got the talent but in a post-USADA world where teams go begging for sponsors, nobody can take the PR risk of signing a 38 year old who was part of the most professional doping program in sports.
When you listen to the hour-long interview, the response that Levi gives most often is, “That’s a tough question.” Says it all, doesn’t it? Cycling teams on both sides of the Atlantic are asking themselves if it’s worth signing Leipheimer and most will answer no.
The doping stories in pro cycling aren’t going away anytime soon. Change Cycling Now is actively working for the overthrow of UCI president Patrick McQuaid. The aftershocks of the USADA Reasoned Decision are still hitting hard and fast. The Italian Padua doping investigation promises more embarrassing revelations and somebody with integrity in Spain has reopened (again) the can of worms called Operacion Puerto.
When doping and organizational corruption are the biggest stories in cycling, job prospects for an old bald guy with a long doping history aren’t that rosy. Some US domestic Continental team may yet roll the dice on Leipheimer, balancing the bad PR with the hope of getting an invite to the Tour of California or US Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado.
Side bar query: Maybe Leipheimer could get a job working for fellow US Postal doper George Hincapie at his cycling apparel company. Something tells us that Levi’s serious nature would pay dividends when it comes to things like inventory control.
Leipheimer said that the understanding from his friends and family has helped him to “forgive myself.” Twisted Spoke isn’t sure anyone running a pro cycling team is willing to offer the same forgiveness just yet.