An Open Letter to Levi Leipheimer on the Occasion of His First Mountain Bike Race

08.11.2010 | 11:12 am

Dear Levi,

First of all, congratulations! Deciding to enter your very first mountain bike race is a big step, and you should be proud of yourself. You’re about to discover a whole new world of intense competition and camaraderie.

And while — as you’ll soon find out — racing can be hard, I think you’ll also find out that it can be very rewarding, just so long as you don’t overreach and keep your goals at a personal level. For example, when lots and lots of people pass you, don’t think “Oh no! These people are beating me!” Instead, think, “These people are not competing against me; they are competing with me. My objective is simply to finish this race in under twelve hours, or thirteen if it comes to that.”

You’ll be amazed how much better you feel!

But I don’t want to spend this whole letter giving you a pep-talk, Levi. No. I’m writing this letter to give you practical, useful advice you can use on your bike race right now.

At the Starting Line

Since you’re not used to mountain bike racing — and especially since you’ve never been to the Leadville 100 before — you’re going to be a little bit overwhelmed at the starting line. There is a huge crowd there, and you may feel intimidated. But don’t worry; you’ll be fine. Just follow these tips:

  • Start from the appropriate place in line. Assess yourself honestly — do you belong at the front of the line where everyone’s going to be jockeying for position, or would it be more prudent to place yourself further back, where there’s more of a ride-and-let-ride mentality?
  • Don’t surge forward off the line. It’s a neutral start. Don’t go attacking right off the line. You might knock someone down and make that person very, very angry. And don’t wear an iPod at the starting line either. For similar reasons.
  • Careful of the Shotgun. Ken Chlouber likes to start the race off by firing a shotgun. If it catches you unawares, you would not be the first person to poop yourself before the race even starts.

Rough Terrain

This isn’t a road bike race, Levi. Well, actually, most of it is on roads. But they’re dirt roads. Downright Jeepish, often. Except the paved parts.

But my point remains: there’s some bumpy, unpaved stuff in this race. So pay attention! Stay loose. And don’t, for crying out loud, go crosschaining your bike.

(Crosschaining is when you have both your front and rear cogs in the largest gears, or when you have both in the smallest gears. And it’s not a good idea.)

Passing Etiquette

Next, you need to be aware that from time to time, people will certainly want to pass you. With more than a thousand people on the course, this may happen more often than you might expect!

When those people want to get by, they will generally yell “On your left!” or “On your right!”

Levi, I cannot overstress the importance of what those riders mean.

When someone says, “On your left!” that does not mean you should move left. No, it does not. It means the person wants to go by on your left side.

Please try to remember that, Levi.

And, by the way, in the interest of good sportsmanship, you should let people by when they want to go by. Remember: you’re not racing against these people. You’re just racing against the clock. It’s just that a whole bunch of other people are there at the same time, also racing the clock.

Endurance Racing Tips

Levi, I have to admit that I’m a little bit surprised that you chose the Leadville 100 as your first-ever mountain bike race. Did you realize that a lot of people take close to — or even more than — twelve hours to finish this?

This is not just one of those 45-minute rides you’re used to doing on the road, Levi!

Here are a few tips to make the miles go by a little more swiftly:

  • Use some chamois lube. I recommend Dave Zabriskie’s Nuts. (In fact, I believe most everyone likes Dave Zabriskie’s Nuts.) You’ll find that your taint — no doubt not used to the punishment long hours in the saddle can bring — will be glad you did.
  • Use a Camelbak: You want to stay hydrated, and you may not be proficient at grabbing a bottle while riding a bike. Also, a Camelbak can be very helpful if you’re going to be out between aid stations for a very long time, which may be the case: in one case there is 20 miles before you get to an aid station!
  • Don’t get discouraged. Sometime during this race you’re going to get tired, and people are going to start passing you, left and right. Don’t let this get you down! Just remember, you’re in this for the long haul. Try singing yourself a merry tune to lift your spirits.

Levi, I think this is going to be a tough race for you, but totally worth it. Just remember: you’re better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.

Kind Regards,


PS: Just in case you were wondering how Levi really handles a mountain bike, you may want to check out this video:


  1. Comment by AngieG | 08.11.2010 | 11:31 am

    FC- As always your generosity and leadership are overwhelming. I am sure Levi will be thankful that a world famous,celebrity cycling blogger has taken this much time from his busy schedule and addoring fans to help ensure his ride is successful.

    I would also suggest you allow him the same opportunity and come to the Gran Fondo on Oct 9th. I hear King Ridge calling your name!
    Good luck again at Leadville to both you and Levi.

  2. Comment by jilrubia | 08.11.2010 | 11:57 am

    If he can just let loose a little bit more than on that clip and follow your fabulous suggestions, he should be just fine! Good lord, do people ever die on these trails??? Good luck to you…show Levi how it’s done.

  3. Comment by zeeeter | 08.11.2010 | 11:58 am

    Anyone betting against Levi beating Lance’s time from last year? Especially if a) he can keep air in his tires and if not b) he can change a flat quicker than Lance can!

  4. Comment by dug | 08.11.2010 | 12:17 pm

    levi leipheimer is a funny name.

  5. Comment by Fifth Column | 08.11.2010 | 12:17 pm

    Fatty, you should recommend to Levi some sweet adult-size training wheels. You know, until he develops balance and confidence in off-road situations.

  6. Comment by The Pineapple | 08.11.2010 | 12:31 pm

    Tsk tsk on cutting that corner 11 seconds in, Levi :-)

  7. Comment by MattC | 08.11.2010 | 12:31 pm

    Good one Fatty…LMAO!! Hopefully Levi gets directed here by somebody to actually read your advice…I’m sure he will be very appreciative! Your generosity continues to amaze me! Good luck in Leadville, and keep the rubber side firmly on THE FREAKIN TRAIL (road/dirt road)this year!

  8. Comment by MattC | 08.11.2010 | 12:37 pm

    Oh…I forgot to add….maybe you should offer to let Levi follow you for awhile…you know, being a newbie and all, he could see how an experienced bike rider handles things. That would be very magnanimous of you and would speed up his learning curve substantially.

  9. Comment by Samantha | 08.11.2010 | 12:57 pm

    Hilarious! Great post.

  10. Comment by Jeremy | 08.11.2010 | 12:57 pm

    You forgot to remind him to put sunscreen on his scalp. I hear bald folks get wicked burns through helmet vents.

  11. Comment by AngieG | 08.11.2010 | 1:11 pm

    @MattC- Great suggestion. However don’t you think Levi would start to experience a severe case of Awesome Gigantic Quad envy. I mean a view of Fatty’s humongous quads from the rear may be so shocking that it may have significant impacts on his race performance. Not to mention the long term effects where he may start to consider alternative career options.
    Levi may be better off if Fatty just kept an eye on him and rode by offering suggestions here and there.
    Fatty’s time would suffer, but being the generous person that he is, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.

  12. Comment by Bryan (not that one) | 08.11.2010 | 1:44 pm

    That video is intense! Anyone know where that trail is?

  13. Comment by Philly Jen | 08.11.2010 | 1:44 pm

    Um, Fatty, you DO know that Odessa Gunn can totally kick your hiney, right?

    The only thing between you and Mrs. Levi is the Runner. Ergo, I think you should really make a point of riding behind your wife at all times this weekend.

    Just to be on the safe side.

  14. Comment by Haven (KT) | 08.11.2010 | 2:19 pm

    Couple of observations–

    1– at first I though, oh, how nice of Lance to offer to wear the helmet cam for Levi! But then I clearly hear several rounds of “woo!”, and that gave it away: Watcher, you sly dog!

    2– Levi better find some uphill to practice on, I’m pretty sure Leadville isn’t all downhill.

    3– Everyone knows that’s Carl Decker in this video, with a clever substitution at the very end. Or some trick editing to make it appear to be Levi.

    All kidding aside– maybe Levi should man up and go single, challenge the Fearless Leader of Team Fatty? That would be cool.

  15. Comment by Canadian Roadie | 08.11.2010 | 2:25 pm

    Oh, so it looks like Lance isn’t going to show now:
    Or maybe he will.

  16. Comment by Planner | 08.11.2010 | 3:18 pm

    Levi, Schmeevi – How about the dude chasing him with camera!

  17. Comment by Ant | 08.11.2010 | 3:30 pm

    I was so hoping you’d post that video Fatty, it’s a cracker. I dug it out last night after seeing Levi’s name on the start list.

    For a mere roadie, the bloke has surely got some skills!

    Good luck this weekend (go get that belt buckle) – and remember, shoulder joints are designed to stay together.

  18. Comment by Jim | 08.11.2010 | 3:32 pm

    Yeah, sure, Levi can downhill on mild singletrack pretty well.

    But can he climb?

  19. Comment by Dave | 08.11.2010 | 4:29 pm

    I sure Levi will appreciate all of your helpful advice. After watching the video, I can tell that he needs all of the help he can get.

  20. Comment by Ian | 08.11.2010 | 4:54 pm

    “These people are not competing against me; they are competing with me.”

    I’ve always thought of it as…

    “These people are not competing against me; they are participating with me.

  21. Comment by skippy | 08.11.2010 | 5:00 pm

    Can’t remember who was at the dec radio shack training ride but LL’s memory of that occasion should be enough to persuade him to shadow Fatty !
    Lance posted link to “Precious” which is worth a visit, good to see the lady back on the road with a few new toys to keep all aware of her efforts.
    “28″ shirts sold out in hour so must be “Collectors item” in the near future, hope the proceeds go to “Livestrong” instead of punters back pockets !

  22. Comment by Joe | 08.11.2010 | 5:34 pm

    Laughed so hard I pooped myself :-)

  23. Comment by rich | 08.11.2010 | 5:34 pm

    You know, after watching that video, I think Levi may have actually ridden one of those mt bike thingamajigs once before….

  24. Comment by Susan with a bum knee | 08.11.2010 | 6:55 pm

    Fatty –Clearly Levi should’ve cleared that last bit. Keep the rubber side down this weekend. And ditto the bit about shoulders staying together. Also, late congrats to The Runner for tearing up the Alpine Days… not just a Runner, but a Rockstar!

  25. Comment by Geo | 08.11.2010 | 8:35 pm

    Fatty, I note you did not warn Levi about the curve that you met your match on last year. Just setting the trap for him as you pick off the big names one by one, eh?

  26. Comment by NSR | 08.11.2010 | 9:36 pm

    Really, Fatty, you go and make a video of yourself and put Levi’s name on it just to give him more confidence? Not only do you have massive quads, you’re kind, too. Good luck at Leadville!

  27. Comment by MattC | 08.12.2010 | 8:35 am

    @AngieG….actually, the more I think about it the more I think you are right…having Levi ride behind Fatty to ‘learn the ropes’ from a seasoned mt biker would be bad on so many levels. More than anything is the fact that with those Ginormous quads, poor Levi wouldn’t be able to see the trail at all (it would be like following close behind an Escalade when you are driving a Mini). Recipie for disaster…for Levi anyway.

    Fatty, how often do people crash when trying to pass you? Just curious if you have noticed this phenomenon in the past.

  28. Comment by illbu2 | 08.12.2010 | 8:57 am

    I second the cameraman comment! Not bad either!

  29. Comment by Brandy | 08.12.2010 | 9:24 am

    Fatty to Lev: “Can I interest you in a mayo packet or two?”

    @Bryan (not that one) that trail is on private property in west Sonoma county here in Nor Cal.

  30. Comment by Janey | 08.12.2010 | 9:42 am

    Good luck, Fatty and Levi. Levi, you couldn’t have “chosen” a better Leadville mentor but I think you already know that. Remind Fatty to point out the infamous character from the 2008 start And then, for Pete’s sake, just have fun. Go for it. Enjoy yourself. Put that serious intensity aside for the day. Takes your cues from Fatty and you’ll have a safe, injury free ride.

  31. Comment by Decket | 08.12.2010 | 9:58 am

    Prediction: Levi will flat and wait for the team car.

  32. Comment by Jamie Lindsay | 08.12.2010 | 10:15 am

    Fatty, after viewing that video of Levi riding his mountain bike, how could anyone pick him to win? I mean the guy holding the steadily video camera with both hands had no problem keeping up with the road racer.
    Although it is good to see Levi get more time outside and do a little exercising, I think he is better suited for those fully supported stage rides.

  33. Comment by Arizona Guy | 08.12.2010 | 11:33 am

    I think you may want to let Levi know he will have to pedal uphill at some point during the ride. Although I have to admit he slipped through that slot between the trees pretty well… he should be OK


  34. Comment by Jorge | 08.12.2010 | 1:16 pm

    I found the video amazing. The rider behind Levi most be a hell of cyclist. Imagine holding an IMAX camera in one hand and the handlebar with the other, while descending behind Levi.

  35. Comment by D. | 08.12.2010 | 1:36 pm

    You want us to yell out your Levi-to-Elden time splits at the three aids, or would that be too demoralizing?

  36. Comment by Heado | 08.12.2010 | 1:55 pm

    Nice trail-shame about the Spandex ;-)

  37. Comment by Pam | 08.12.2010 | 4:11 pm

    Hey Fatty guess who is promoting this blog post on twitter… Johan Bruyneel… I was worried, you know, that your modesty might prevent you from noting this.

  38. Comment by bikesgonewild | 08.12.2010 | 5:18 pm

    …now that lance has stated that he’s not riding leadville, can we get a a confirmation as to whether he’s really not, maybe not, not at all sure if he’s maybe really not or maybe not any of the above…

    …’cuz i’m not sure or not…

  39. Comment by John Paul Daigle | 08.12.2010 | 8:02 pm

    I just realized that I need a mountain bike. Seriously. Like fatty needs mayo and lettuce needs tomato, I NEED a mountain bike.

  40. Comment by calGone | 08.12.2010 | 9:21 pm

    If Only bombing down sugarloaf and powerline was that smooooooooooooooooooth.

  41. Comment by Bruce | 08.12.2010 | 10:36 pm

    As a soon to be 77 year old fart watching this makes me
    drool with envy. Not much of a biker myself but a big
    fan since R V ( Robbie ) was 7.

    Very enjoyable, Thanks Fatty

  42. Comment by Ian | 08.13.2010 | 1:35 am

    Hey, I was going to buy some of your recommended Dave Zabriskie’s Nuts so I went to the web site. I noticed in the list of Ingredients We Will Never Use, that beetroot was absent. I don’t think I would like to use a chamios lube from a company that might be contemplating including beetroot.

    I’m just sayin’

  43. Comment by Steve | 08.13.2010 | 3:25 am

    I think Levi’s on a motorised bike – he’s hardly even pedalling in the video!

  44. Comment by 100poundsago | 08.13.2010 | 8:06 am

    I dunno, looks like he can rock a MTB pretty well.

  45. Comment by sllym | 08.13.2010 | 8:28 am

    Levi just tweeted about your posting. I’m sure he appreciates your advice.

  46. Comment by kunstadt | 08.13.2010 | 8:38 am

    I like how the camera guy gets gapped when Levi slips under the low branch. I guess that’s one good thing about being 5′ 3″

  47. Comment by brandon | 08.13.2010 | 9:39 am

    Good stuff!

  48. Comment by AK_Chick | 08.13.2010 | 9:43 am

    Hmmmm….Levi is thanking you for your advice…I think he’s scared. ;-) Again, not of you, but The Runner!

    From Twitter:
    @LeviLeipheimer: I got a real nice letter from @fatcyclist with all kinds of advice. Thanks Fatty!

  49. Comment by cosmopolice | 08.13.2010 | 11:02 am

    Nicely maintained exiting trails. It does not seam like his first run on this one though….

  50. Comment by Jam | 08.13.2010 | 11:14 am

    Levi was a really good alpine ski racer growing up. Probably good enough to ski on the US team, whatever that says. I’m certain he’s plenty skilled to school whomever…

  51. Comment by jim | 08.13.2010 | 12:55 pm

    At first I thought this guy was serious, then I realized it was a joke, funny.

  52. Comment by mattko | 08.13.2010 | 2:18 pm

    Thanks, Fatty! This was awesome. I also love that video of Levi. I watched that earlier this year and it inspired me to go get a tune up on my mountain bike.

  53. Comment by jeff | 08.13.2010 | 2:48 pm

    I’m a roadie, but watching that video gave me mountain bike lust.

    Now I feel kinda dirty.

  54. Comment by Bryan (not that one) | 08.13.2010 | 3:42 pm

    @Brandy Thanks!

  55. Comment by Rochester Insurance | 08.13.2010 | 7:41 pm

    Don’t listen to him Levi! Start at the front and if anyone tries to pass you speed up! I don’t see much chance for crashes like the “le Tour” so you should be good. Plus I heard Lance dropped out because you were doing the race. (L43) Long Live Levi!

  56. Comment by MOCougFan | 08.13.2010 | 9:17 pm

    Nice reply back from Levi. Have fun in Sonomo!!!

  57. Comment by AngieG | 08.13.2010 | 9:55 pm

    FC- Great response from Levi. MattC and his brother Greg are going to be there too. It’ll be an Austin ‘09 reunion. Maybe Matt and Greg can take turns leading you out. Matt tells me Greg has crazy climbing legs. Just what you’ll need on King Ridge and Coleman Valley. Beware of the wicked descent across Hauser Bridge. The views are breath taking though. Definitely worth the trip.
    Make sure you come by registration and say Hi.

  58. Comment by BobE | 08.13.2010 | 9:59 pm

    “On your left”
    Levi’s response is here:

  59. Comment by Chris | 08.13.2010 | 10:42 pm

    Oh Fatty you have to come to California and visit us now!

  60. Comment by Former 550 Lbs Cyclist | 08.14.2010 | 5:56 am

    Excellent Post as ALWAYS Fatty !

    Watching that has made me wish the Ins company would hurry up and pay for a replacment MTB that was a write off after a van crashed into me !!!

  61. Comment by Tracie | 08.14.2010 | 1:43 pm

    I love Levi’s response to your letter..Priceless

  62. Comment by Andy Shaw | 08.14.2010 | 2:42 pm

    Man your advise really worked, maybe you should do a book.

  63. Comment by tag | 08.14.2010 | 5:25 pm

    Fatty with the ASSIST!

  64. Comment by Ruttgen | 08.14.2010 | 6:32 pm

    congrats to levi…..

    where did fatty finish….?

  65. Comment by Accident Prone | 08.14.2010 | 7:31 pm

    Checked out this link from the LT100 facebook page:

    Looks like Fatty finished around 9:17…on a single speed. Way to go Fatty!!!

  66. Comment by Richard | 08.14.2010 | 9:14 pm

    3 hours behind Levi – does that prove that gears make you 50% quicker?

  67. Comment by Kiki | 08.15.2010 | 3:47 am

    Saw both you and the Runner rocking it down Columbine. You are both awesome! Congrats! Loved the Runners helmet decor, not only was she riding well, she looked great doing it:)

  68. Comment by Me | 08.15.2010 | 7:57 pm

    Levi won

  69. Comment by Bruce Bebow | 08.15.2010 | 8:10 pm

    Leadville Race Results:

  70. Comment by Rickshaw Rudy | 08.16.2010 | 1:17 am

    I have a question, when Levi passed you was it on the left or right? …or did you assess yourself honestly and place yourself further back, where there‚Äôs more of a ride-and-let-ride mentality?

  71. Comment by Born 4 Lycra | 08.16.2010 | 5:54 am

    9.17 and you were just having fun. The 9 hour mark is toast next year when you get serious.

  72. Comment by Pierre | 08.16.2010 | 12:06 pm

    LEVI BIG………………….. AMAZING

  73. Comment by WILLIAM | 08.16.2010 | 7:22 pm

    Where is this trail that Levi is training on? I’d love to ride it. Looks sick.

  74. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » 2010 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 1 | 08.17.2010 | 10:24 am

    [...] An Open Letter to Levi Leipheimer on the Occasion of His First Mountain Bike Race 2010 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 2 [...]

  75. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » 2010 Leadville 100 Race Report, Part 2 | 08.17.2010 | 10:25 am

    [...] was great to tell Levi firsthand that I thought his reply to my open letter to him was [...]

  76. Comment by Bexi | 10.11.2010 | 4:47 am

    Far out! he’s a machine!

  77. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » What Makes a Good Event Great? | 10.3.2011 | 12:00 pm

    [...] thirty seconds or so, I remembered. And told the story, in excruciating [...]


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.