Looking after Number One

It appears an army of one is all it takes to win the Tour

Let Levi Ride.com. Take note of the name: let LEVI ride. Not Astana, not Alberto, not Andreas, not Chris or Vladimir; let LEVI ride. Got it?

Right, let's move on...

Or can we, because even on a day when, as is now traditional on the Tour of California, the race visits his adopted hood of Santa Rosa, Leipheimer was feted as the homecoming hero. The 36-year-old Astana rider was still seething about the announcement last week that his team will be shut out of the Tour de France. Leipheimer, lest we forget, was third in last year's Tour.

Yeah, OK, his team-mate Alberto Contador won the darned thing, but that's not important: this was LEVI's day and Let LEVI Ride is the campaign LEVI launched last week to get the Tour organisers' decision overturned.

I asked Leipheimer after the finish Monday night if this was about him or his team, and depending on your viewpoint, he was either egotistical or honest enough to confess that the clue was in the name.

"It's 'Let Levi Ride', and I think the reason for that is that there's a cycling audience in the US which has traditionally watched the Tour de France on TV or a lot of people go over there to watch," the ex-US Postal man mumbled. "Every year, when I finish the Tour, there are always tons of flags on the Champs Elysees and I hear people shouting my name....

"I think the biggest injustice of us not riding the Tour is for someone like myself, because I've dedicated my whole life to the Tour and sacrificed so much in my life, to live like a monk and to go to bed early and train and to watch what I eat," he added. "I've got to the point where I've finished third in the Tour, within 30 seconds of winning, and I don't have too much longer in my career. And now I'm getting one of the Tours taken away in my prime. I think it's not right. If they have any reason to keep us out of the race, I don't think it's big enough to validate that injustice."

Leipheimer's argument was a pretty sound  one - as was his contention that "if this is a personal thing between the Tour organisers and [Astana chief] Johan Bruyneel, it's not fair to affect so many other people."

What jarred rather more was the American bemoaning a lack of unity between riders and teams. And it begged the question: would Leipheimer be quite so outraged if it was only Contador who had been declared a persona non grata? I tend to think that he would not.

Either way, all he can do now is wait for his online petition to fill up and for the Tour chiefs to pay attention. My guess is that they won't, simply because they like team boss Johan Bruyneel even less than they liked the Astana team's appalling record on doping in its previous incarnation. Yeah, it's pretty unfair, but as the French would tell you, c'est la vie.

Anyone who does want to lend Levi their support can do so by registering at, you guessed it, LetLeviRide.com. The last we heard, the LetJoseLuisRubeiraRide.Com website was still under construction...

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