A win that no one predicted could happen – Levi Leipheimer overtook race leader Damiano Cunego in the time trial taking the overall title in the Tour de Suisse. The RadioShack rider had a consistent race and when it mattered, he was in the right place at the right time. Now with a victory in a national tour just a couple of weeks before the Tour de France, Leipheimer can be seen as a legitimate favorite for a podium position. Leipheimer wasn’t the only RadioShack rider to break the top 10. Andreas Klöden was second and Nelson Oliveira was fourth for the Shack. Quite the ride for the team.
At the ripe old age of 37 Leipheimer showed that his build-up to the Tour is right on schedule. While not a winner at the Amgen Tour of California, his performance shepherding Chris Horner up Mt Baldy was impressive – riding Andy Schleck off their wheels.
Among the congratulations to Leipheimer and the RadioShack team, there was a vocal chorus of people who didn’t quite show the same enthusiasm.
“I honestly think that @radioshack would be better off asking their riders not to win anymore races. It’s bad PR when everyone suspects you.”
“No middle ground on Leipheimer’s #TdSuisse win. People are either psyched or pissed off. #thanksjohan”
“Judging by my Twitter feed a few #tdsuisse viewers suspect Levi dopes. #captainobvious”
You get my point…
The distrust, obviously, comes from the investigation into Lance Armstrong, and by association, anyone who has ridden for him. Tyler Hamilton in his 60 Minutes interview even said that doping was occurring on the US Postal team before Armstrong. For Leipheimer the distrust goes back to his Gerolsteiner days.
Leipheimer is accused by his Gerolsteiner director Hans-Michael Holczer, in his book “Garantiert Positiv” (Guaranteed Positive), of having suspect blood values during the 2005 Tour de France that were consistent with blood doping. Leipheimer hasn’t been sanctioned for doping as a professional, but was positive for ephedrine at the amateur U.S. National Criterium Championships in 1996. Leipheimer said he ingested the banned substance from a cold medicine. Regardless, he had to return his national championship jersey.
To be honest I don’t know where to weigh in on this subject. I want to believe that Leipheimer’s overall win was due to hard work and a strong squad. But the shadow of the ongoing investigation into Armstrong is long and covers riders who may be entirely innocent of any wrong doing. Perhaps Leipheimer is collateral damage in the battle against doping? I hate to think that every victory by RadioShack is tainted as I’ll root for Horner in the Tour. However, in the realm of public opinion it seems, as always with Armstrong/RadioShack, is split down the middle.