A Conversation With Levi Leipheimer

07.22.2014 | 9:29 am

I had a great vacation in NC with my family. Except for one day: July 12, the day of the Crusher in the Tushar. I love that race, and was bummed to be missing it this year.

So I tracked it, as best as I could — watching for Twitter, Facebook, and Strava posts.

Eventually I saw that Levi Leipheimer had posted a fast time for the race, so I left a comment congratulating him. Which made it so that I started getting notified by Strava whenever anyone else left a comment. 

And there were quite a few. Some positive, some critical. And up to that point at least, all very  well-considered. That conversation has snowballed a bit since then (partially fueled by a tweet of mine about it, maybe), but I liked that Levi seems willing to talk.

So I asked him to do a recorded chat with me to post here. And I do mean “chat” here; we ramble and jump all over the place, which made for an interesting conversation. We talk about the Tour de France (racing it, crashing out of it, watching it after you’ve crashed out of it, whether a normal human could hang on for even a single stage of it), whether 155 pounds is too heavy for a 5’7” cyclist, the 100 Miles of Nowhere, whether doping benefits a racer even after they stop doping, and a lot more. 

It’s long — just under an hour — but I think it’s worth a listen. Here you go:

Technical Note: about halfway through, the software I was using to record the video died on me — a fact I didn’t notice ’til after the interview was over. Luckily, I had taken the precaution of recording the audio redundantly, so I have the entire recording — just no video for the second half. This just means that at some point you’ll see still shots of our heads as we talk, instead of us talking as we stare at our respective computer screens.

Just In Case An Hour Isn’t Enough

By the way, Culture Pop Films just put out a documentary detailing a little more about Levi, what he’s doing now, and Levi’s GranFondo — it’s definitely worth a watch, which you can do here (though you may want to see it nice and big on the Vimeo site instead): 

PS: If you watch Behind the Curtain, be sure to watch the outtakes reel

10 Comments »

  1. Comment by BostonCarlos (formerly NYC) | 07.22.2014 | 11:21 am

    the repetitive mention of someone named Carlos was exciting. I liked pretending Levi knew who I was.

  2. Comment by Jeff Bike | 07.22.2014 | 12:24 pm

    Fatty you should write the interesting stories and going forward book and tell Levi’s story.

  3. Comment by pbrmeasap | 07.22.2014 | 1:12 pm

    I don’t want to like Levi, but every time I hear him speak I like him more. I would like to split a 12 pack with him.

  4. Comment by Steve | 07.22.2014 | 2:47 pm

    I’ve been laughing all morning at the thought that Levi has signed up for the 100 Miles of Nowhere.

  5. Comment by ScottR | 07.22.2014 | 6:14 pm

    I thought the first half of the video was really really good stuff – both people were extremely likeable, good context/background from his experience (so the same reason I don’t want to like doper Christian Vande Velde doing tour coverage, I think he has been good on camera).

    I wish it hadn’t touched on the long term impact of doping. We really have no way to know if Levi ever had any success riding clean (his 1996 national title being stripped due to failing a drug test before he ever went pro*), so while I assume his take on the effects is completely truthful, they don’t have much scale to me.

    * – and I don’t even know if that was a true instance of doping, but I also don’t believe that people stopped doping in exactly the right timeframes to keep their Olympic medals.

    To Levi’s point where ‘racing grand tours gets you in that kind of shape’ – exactly. The detractors are saying ‘we have no way to know if you deserved to race in those grand tours in first place, without doping’. Cheating led to other unfair advantages in my book, and as a direct result I’m amongst those who dislike the idea of him participating in any races that offer prizes for winning.

    While some of the blog responses go too far, I think Steve Tilford’s blog offers some very valid perspective/background:

    http://stevetilford.com/2013/05/21/levi-retires-its-about-sharing-the-love-of-the-bike/

    http://stevetilford.com/2014/07/15/levi-winning-again/

    Three things I found interesting – bringing up lifetime bans for doping (sounds good to me), focusing on testing (given that these guys didn’t get busted as pros via testing), and mentioning Contador in the list of clean cyclists.

    The last ~10 minutes when he got reflective (and the conversation got more social) he seemed very likeable again. I’m glad Fatty isn’t assigning everyone minimum climbing rates for their 100MoN.

    In the end I still feel bad for the young pros – I wish to believe they are clean, but I honestly look at it in reference to South Park’s “Simpsons did it” – It seems like everything they could possibly say is an “Armstrong said it”. I really really want to believe the current young pros are clean… and I thought Cavendish’s small chapter about it was well written… Here’s hoping.

  6. Comment by UpTheGrade, SR, CA | 07.22.2014 | 10:26 pm

    If Levi wants to do 100MON in Santa Rosa, here’s my suggestion:
    Skyfarm climb is 563ft in 0.8 miles (14%) and since Stetina has the KOM, it gives Levi a chance to win that too ;-)
    (that’s the one to the very top, Levi has the KOM on the steepest part to Flintridge)

    Do that 63 times for 100 miles (up and down)and its 35,125 ft of climbing. That aught to get even Levi’s quads burning.
    (I have personally done eight repeats and was fried)

    I loved the interview and the insight Levi gave. Its a shame doping lost Levi his palmares and his place in cycling, and those of clean riders who couldn’t compete – he is a genuinely nice guy.

    I like that idea. I like it a lot. – FC

  7. Comment by Dripslobber | 07.23.2014 | 4:01 pm

    When I listen to Levi one word keeps coming to mind…Respect. We’ve all made bad choices but how many of us could be as forthcoming as he has been? The past is behind us and I would look forward to meeting him in person!

    Thanks for the interview.

  8. Comment by davidh-Marin,ca | 07.23.2014 | 11:23 pm

    Maybe Levi will join us at the Fatty Tent at the Gran Fondo and have some pie. Or, we could have a FC vs LL pie eating contest! A variation on that ‘bike race’ that Fatty concocted.

  9. Comment by Jeff Bike | 07.24.2014 | 11:08 am

    I enjoyed the interview very much. It struck the right tone between fun and easy to serious. Thinking about it overnight I have one insight: I like that he made it clear that he made Bad Choices not mistakes. You and Levi left me thinking about my own Bad Choices and how you can’t hide behind the word mistakes. I have come to the conclusion that choices are a decision made (sometimes with bad information or bad motives) whereas mistakes are an unthinking action (or inaction). We have responsibility either way. A bad choice made with bad motives (as in premeditated cheating) is the only one that people want to really punish you for. When a person says they made a mistake when it is obviously a bad choice they subject themselves to the same desire to punish because they do not take responsibility for the action.
    Levi has shown that he has accepted responsibility for his actions. It looks like he has learned from this lesson. I will not hold a grudge or animosity toward him. I would hope others (my wife) do not hold my bad choices against me. A famous man said “He without sin cast the first stone.”

  10. Comment by Bill H-D | 07.25.2014 | 11:05 pm

    At 48:00 minutes, Levi asked me a question. The answer is yes. (And it was just short of 3000 laps) :)

 

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