Behind the Scenes of My Levi Leipheimer Interview

12.7.2012 | 9:01 am

A Note from Fatty: Free Verse Friday is suspended today, due to me having something more interesting to write about, and the inclination to actually do that writing.

Yesterday was intense.

I did a serious interview with Levi Leipheimer, the replay of which you can see over at Spreecast, or right here:

Today, Velonews is talking about that interview, and on Twitter and elsewhere, people are saying really nice things about it.

So I’d like to write a little bit about what went on in putting this interview together. Because this is not the kind of thing I do every day.

Deep Background

You could say that the seed of this interview got planted as a result of the GranDonut Race. One of the things Levi agreed to do if I won — which was never in question, since I had slanted the rules so there was no way I couldn’t win — was be interviewed at some point on my blog.

My intention, of course, was to just do a silly fake interview, maybe with a side-intent of doing some good fundraising for a good cause.

And then, of course, the USADA report came out, and I figured that if I was ever going to do an interview with Levi, it wasn’t going to be a jokey one.

Less Deep Background

Flash forward a couple months to last Sunday. I’m deep into the World Bicycle Relief Fundraiser (you didn’t really think I’d let a post go without mentioning that, did you?), and had arranged with TourChats to go on their show with Tom Danielson and Patrick Dempsey to promote the big grand prize they’re giving: a week riding with them at a Malibu resort.

At show time, the video streaming service TourChats had been using — Vokle — completely self-destructed. To their massive credit, the TourChats guys quickly moved over to SpreeCast and did the show anyway. And the technology worked flawlessly

Suddenly, I knew how I wanted to do the interview with Levi. And I knew when, too, since Levi himself was also providing a huge prize for my fundraiser

Getting Ready

I was actually really amazed at how easy it was to get Levi on board with doing the interview. the biggest logistics problem, in fact, was that Levi has lousy Internet at his house; he’d have to go to BikeMonkey HQ for a good internet connection.

But preparing myself for actually doing a serious interview wasn’t anywhere near as easy. 

First, I made sure Levi knew that I wasn’t going to be just joking around; that I planned to ask him serious questions about doping and being fired by Omega-Pharma-Whatever. I am not a big fan of blindsiding folks (usually).

“That sounds great,” he replied.

Next, I spent some time reading. And I spent some time asking people what they’d ask Levi. 

And then I spent a lot of time writing questions. 

That step was crucial, because I know myself pretty well, including my tendency to be nice, rather than tough. I figured that if I just let the conversation flow, it’d wind up being pretty soft. 

Then I printed the questions up onto cue cards — like I was a talk show host — and ordered them the way I wanted to use them. I held them right in front of me during the interview, which is out of the camera’s view. 

I then cleaned up my office — my wife was incredibly embarrassed at how messy it appeared on TourChats — and even moved a Christmas tree into the basement where I work.

Then, at the last moment, I moved the Christmas tree out of the field of vision. Too festive for what I planned to do. 

Then, at even the more last moment, I unscrewed the lightbulb that is directly over my head, so there wouldn’t be such a huge glare off my head.

And the rest, well you can see how it went. I’m proud of it, and I plan to do more video interviews.

Though I’d prefer them to mostly just be goofy.


  1. Comment by Clydesteve | 12.7.2012 | 9:13 am

    Fatty, it was a very interesting interview. Somehow, after reading the entire USADA thing, I kind of expected that Levi would be open and transparent as he was, but it was still really neat to see how humble and open he was.

    Good move on the light bulb.

    Tell Lisa that Marilyn understands. I have know idea what that is about.

    A dog barks in the early morning fog..
    does he miss the days of not rainy, not foggy cycling weather as much as I?
    I think so.

    Thnk you

  2. Comment by rich | 12.7.2012 | 9:27 am

    I watched the interview yesterday and thought you did a fantastic job. I was expecting a light, fun discussion and was pleasantly surprised at how deep you went.
    I was also very impressed with Levi’s candor and openness…

    Great Job!

  3. Comment by Chris Engle | 12.7.2012 | 9:37 am

    Awesome interview, I will be rooting for Levi to get the second chance he deserves.

  4. Comment by ClydeinKS | 12.7.2012 | 9:55 am

    The interview was awesome and give you many kudos in getting it done! It is a shame that no team has signed Levi yet, the suspension allows him to still be in the Tour and we all know he’ll be ready when called.
    It seems Levi is already totally in with Team Fatty, hmmmm – a new US based sponsored team? Maybe another sponsor could come on board (ie. Krispy Kreme maybe?)The team kit would look GREAT powering through France! One could dream, but sadly the paperwork would likely never get approved in time for a Tour license.

    Great work and looking forward to more videos!

  5. Comment by ChrisA | 12.7.2012 | 9:56 am

    I only caught the last 30 minutes, but I was impressed with your ability to ask tough questions given your close personal relationship and with Levi’s candor, especially about his wife’s knowledge and involvement.

    Great job.

  6. Comment by mims | 12.7.2012 | 11:04 am

    Terri Gross of Fresh Air (interviewer par excellence) should be worried about her job! Thanks for asking some hard questions. I appreciate all you do for the cycling community and all the charitable work too.

    Please suggest to Levi about getting some of the potholes fixed in Sonoma County. If he wants to live a life of redemption he will win alot of hearts and minds (cyclist and motorists alike) locally if he gets behind that issue.

    BTW, whats all this then about Matthew Beaudin Climbers manifesto? Is it in Velo News? online somewhere? Please elucidate.

  7. Pingback by Behind the Scenes of My Levi Leipheimer Interview | Bicycle News Gator | 12.7.2012 | 11:30 am

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  8. Comment by dug | 12.7.2012 | 12:50 pm

    you did not use my questions. I listened carefully to see of you would.

    Sure I did. You just didn’t listen to the end. – FC

  9. Comment by Skippy | 12.7.2012 | 12:58 pm

    Accessed your Interview through ” Stevetilford blog ” thus not sure where the connection problems began . i did manage to send some questions once i got the link working but with dropping in n out had to quit long before i wished.
    Questions that you posed sounded very pro and levi’s replies appeared to be worthwhile . Would be worthwhile result if he gets behind the petition and thus encourages ALL Racers to be part of the solution to the problems UCI have created for the Cycling Community Stakeholders ! Fans , Sponsors , Racers and Organisers Deserve better results from UCI , after all they are paying for Professionals and what have they got ?

    Two old timers , the phat & heinous show competing with the phil n paul show for the ” Worst show on Earth “!

    Sad day today , Anniversary of Pearl Harbour and the London Clinic Event . Lest we Forget !

  10. Comment by Laura S | 12.7.2012 | 1:07 pm

    Nice interview. You did an excellent job!

  11. Comment by Liz M. | 12.7.2012 | 1:21 pm

    The preparation that went into the interview showed. Great job, Elden. I know you are busy but if you have time for more of these, goofy or no, I’d enjoy it.

    And very best wishes to Levi — looking forward to following his racing career on his next team.

    Thanks. I’ve already booked my next two guests, actually. One next week, and another the week after that. I won’t say who yet, but next week’s is an active top pro cyclist; someone I’m a huge fan of. The week after that is someone very well-known in the cycling community but is not a pro racer at all. There’s going to be some diversity in my interviews. – FC

  12. Comment by Christian Rosauer | 12.7.2012 | 1:36 pm

    The best thing about this doping expose is that we all now understand that the dopers are not really guilty. What would any of us done in this situation? How about a JOKEY interview with Levi next?

  13. Comment by Frank | 12.7.2012 | 1:55 pm

    Just curious about the wine in the background behind you Fatty. What brand? Do you get sponsorship? Are we going to see wine tours in the future?

    Those are souvenirs. The big one is a (signed by the president of Cycles Gladiator) 2005 Cycles Gladiator Cabernet Central Coast. The smaller one is a (signed by Levi) Levi’s King Ridge 2007 Pinot Noir, Sonoma, CA. I don’t expect to ever open either of them. – FC

  14. Comment by leroy | 12.7.2012 | 2:54 pm

    You do a great interview with Levi and my dog’s reaction is to tell me not to get a swollen head just because there are two guys on the internet who have even less hair than I do.

    He says a hairy back isn’t everything.

    I can tell he’s just messing with me. I saw him making a contribution to your Grand Slam for Zambia.

    Of course, he borrowed my credit card.

    You are lucky to have such a fine dog. The only time my dog pays attention to me is when I offer it a piece of bread. Or, in the case of last nigh, an entire pot roast. – FC

  15. Comment by Justin L. | 12.7.2012 | 3:46 pm

    I am very impressed with Levi. I was sad when all the doping stuff came out, but hearing him speak was huge. His statement did nothing to me, hearing him speak and your interview was huge. I am again a huge Levi fan and will be rooting for him. I roadbike is MIA and i am without. I will probably ride my mountain bike at the Fondo next year.

  16. Comment by Al Pastor | 12.7.2012 | 4:03 pm

    Nice job.

    From my understanding of the interview, it sounds like Levi thinks cycling is clean now. I’ll admit it’s probably cleaner than it’s been in many years, but with the benefits of cheating outweighing the punishment, I don’t see it ever going away.

  17. Comment by Jeff Owen | 12.7.2012 | 8:22 pm

    You did a great interview. Thanks

  18. Comment by Carl | 12.7.2012 | 10:35 pm

    I wish I could have caught it live, but it was great non the less. Thanks Fatty

  19. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 12.8.2012 | 2:45 am

    Fatty. If that wine is never going to be opened…maybe it should become a prize!
    I have a nice Levi National Championship jersey it would look good next to.

    ps-today I found out on my mtb ride that I have officially moved from
    fit-fat to just plain fat. alas.

  20. Comment by Mark | 12.8.2012 | 11:41 pm

    Finally had some time to watch. Great interview! Great questions – and it’s good to get his answers verbally. It’s obvious that Levi is more comfortable doing this than you are, but I’m sure practice will improve your delivery. I look forward to the upcoming interviews you hinted at.


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