In case you were wondering if Levi Leipheimer of Radio Shack is ready to do his Armstrong imitation in the Tour de France, the answer is yes, oui, certainement.
Yesterday at the summit of the col de la Madeleine, the rider from Santa Rosa was not, unlike half the peloton, gritting his death and doing a Hollywood death scene, contortions on the bike, slumped over, croaking for the cameras. No, he looked focused, hurting but in control.
This morning In Chambery, I saw Leipheimer roll past after the sign-in and he looked fresh as a French daisy. He stopped to greet a friend or sponsor and said these exact words: “this is the best I’ve felt all year.” That’s after the Madeleine, folks, which reduced the field to rubble except for the skinny freak duo of Alberto Contador and Andy Scheck.
The 2010 Tour de France was scripted as a war of attrition: cobblestones, high temperatures, drenching humidity, a monster scoop of mountains. The rider who can stay steady, not have a horrendous day, and slowly build for that murderous thrid week will make the podium. That’s certainly a strength of Leipheimer who is never spectacular but usually at the front.
Levi has a decent shot and based on how he looks and sounds — and with the help of that Armstrong guy — he might just make that third step.