Leipheimer and the Tour de Suisse

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.


  1. Jason says:

    Leipheimer has a suspect past, as you have stated, but there is nothing to suggest that he is currently doping. At some point we have to start having faith in the testing system(s) and the changing culture. Especially, given his past and association with Armstrong/Radioshack, I am sure that he is targeted and heavily monitored by the testing bodies. That does not mean that he can’t beat the system but I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt (that he deserves). Nothing about his performance this week is inconsistent with the type of rider we know he is. 1. An above average climber, who follows wheels, attacks infrequently and prefers a steady tempo. 2. One of the top ten time trialists in the world. The contrasting video of Cunego and Levi today was all you needed to see. In my opinion, the only thing Levi is cheating now is the wind.

      • Jason Schweitzer says:

        Me too. Because it is going to take a team to beat Contador. AC is clearly the best rider but he is human. Repeated attacks by legitimate threats is the best route to isolate and wear him down. If everybody doesn’t ride for GC spots it can work. If everybody looks at each other or doesn’t have an agressive plan we will be looking at a repeat of the Giro, I fear. The level of competition will be the strongest AC has faced all year. I will be pulling for Evans and Horner. Thanks for your work Neil.

  2. Robert says:

    My thoughts exactly. Horner wins ATOC at 39 and Levi wins TdS at 37 and their performance on Mt Baldy was jaw dropping given the pedigree and the age of the guys they dropped. I too would like to believe in miracles and feel good stories but if it’s looks too good to be true it probably is. The Armstrong (and don’t forget Bruyneel) shadow is indeed a long one. The evidence against Armstrong is irrefutable that is unless you still believe in Santa Claus. To think any team coached by Bruyneel is competing clean is rather unlikey given a Lepopard can’t change its spots.

    • tague says:

      First of all 39 and 37 is a Young age. The tour of california and switzerland are not three week tours. They both won these races because they were the best riders. There is no reason to believe that they dope. Both are extremely dedicated athletes who train very hard. V02 max, recovery rate and experience is what won these races for these Guys. Quote ” Horner wins ATOC at 39 and Levi wins TdS at 37 and their performance on Mt Baldy was jaw dropping given the pedigree and the age of the guys they dropped. Do not come out with a statement like that. They are not 69 and 67. When horner reaches 69 and levi 67 and they are still in excellent health there vo2 max and recovery rate will have dropped as well as natural testosterone and hgh. But at 39 and 37 very little if one keeps themselves in great shape. Your point is completely invalid. When these guys reach 60 and are in good health and great shape they would still ride most guys in there twenties of their wheel if there vo2 max had dropped to say about 57 ml/kg/min respectively given the fact that a normal untrained male has an average of 45 ml/kg/min. Which may increase to about 50-52 ml/kg/min with training.

      • Robert says:

        No issue with the work ethic and as for the VO2 max stuff I can’t comment. Bruyneel has a suspect past and the shadow he casts is a long one. You didn’t comment on that part. It’s hard to believe he’s cleaned up his act and is 100% dope free. But hey that’s just my opinion.

        I disagree that men in their late 30’s can dominate like these two did based solely on experience, training and recovery rate etc… This applies to all of the cyclists in the pro peloton. As for them dropping 20 somethings when they are in their 60’s I totally agree.

  3. Harold Woodley says:

    This may sound terribly cynical but I don’t view any cycling victory without a bit of suspicion that the winner has doped but I balance that out with eternal optimism that the win was clean and frankly I am fine with that. All this hand wringing over Lance et al; I just don’t get it. Is it such a shock that someone who dominated the biggest event in cycling seven years in a row might have done so via an “unfair” advantage? I just don’t think the ideas that Lance was one of the greatest cyclists ever and that he might have been the best doper ever are mutually exclusive.

  4. Jay Robinson says:

    It is not just what Leipheimer did at Postal and w LA, it is what he did at Rabobank, Gerolsteiner, Astana, and now RS. He was at Canary Island Hotel the same time as Ferrari, he has had suspect performances (2001 Vuelta where he beat a convicted doper Heras) and came out of nowhere to have a Top 5 in a 3 week tour. In other words he has earned the suspicion he gets. What pisses me off more is that he has 0 panache’, he doesn’t attack, he rolls 10 ft off the front, then goes back to suck wheel.. He did not even win a stage at Suisse. In my opinion he did not win it. Cunego lost it. “Bottle” is Vanilla as they come and my only hope is that Horner is clean, that Leipheimers and LA’s shit did not rub off on Horner.

  5. Jenni says:

    Levi never rode with Lance during any of his seven TdF victories. Since there is no test for autologous blood doping, we will never really know who did and who didn’t transfuse blood before implementation of the Biological Passport. Levi has performed consistently over his long career. No real surprises. Good TT and long hard climbs at a steady pace. I like him, so I hope he’s clean.

  6. Jeff says:

    Doper! After watching him and Horner destroy the field on Mt Baldy last month, I’m convinced they are juicing big time!

  7. White Lunchbag says:

    The suspicion of LL goes back to his Einstein’s Bagels days, when he lost his national crit championship for a doping positive.

    The fountain of youth at Ponce De La Radioshack is certainly amazing. Maybe Grewal should try and get a ride with those guys.

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