Leipheimers on hand for LeviClose
Levi Leipheimer is being backed by a whole bunch of family members hoping he can get a best-ever TouPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE At Dutch squad Rabobank's team bus at the end of Thursday's 17th stage, there were some familiar faces to greet the team's American rider, Levi Leipheimer. Like the thousands of other Americans who have made the trip over to France to witness Lance Armstrong attempt to win a record sixth Tour, many of Leipheimer's family had come over from Montana to cheer on their man. "We're having a fantastic time over here watching him," Bob Leipheimer, Levi's dad, told procycling. "It's quite exhausting with all the travelling, but we wouldn't miss it for the world." The family joined the race at Limoges on the first rest day, and will continue to follow it, and Levi, all the way to the finish. Rob Leipheimer, who owns a bike shop back home in the US and was sporting some pretty bling Rabobank team edition training shoes courtesy of his younger brother, was also full of praise for Levi's achievements on the European scene. "But it's funny, thinking back, how I used to whup him on the bike," Rob laughed. "It wasn't until he was around 16 that he started getting serious, and was then winning all over the place. That's when he started being able to beat me." "But," Levi's father added, "he was already saying at the age of around 12 or 13 that he was going to ride the Tour de France. And here he is." Growing up, Levi was apparently a big fan of three-time Tour winner, and fellow American, Greg LeMond. But Levi's biggest fan, as is the way of the world, is his mum, Yvonne. "We're all so proud of him," Yvonne said with smile. "Especially today when he's done so well on such a tough stage." The Rabobank pro finished seventh, just 61 seconds down on stage winner Armstrong. Leipheimer is now ninth in the overall classification and, on Saturday's time trial - his speciality - he may even be able to improve on that position for the finish on Sunday in Paris. "Unfortunately we've got to get straight on the plane the next day to go home," said Bob, more than a little sad that, for the Leipheimer family, there will be little time to celebrate Levi's Tour together. "But hopefully we'll be back again soon."