In a family who prefers cars and convenience, my Uncle is the lone cyclist. He gave me my first road bike and introduced me to the love-hate relation that exists between every cyclist and a massive grade.
Every year, my Uncle drags me out to watch one of the climbing stages of the Tour de California. Sometimes, we even heckle at more than one location, but for a few years we always cheered for the same guy.
Levi Leiphemier is a local hero. He wasn’t born in Northern California but we’ve adopted him as one of our own. Amongst his many accomplishments, he’s the three time consecutive winner of the TdC. He recently retired from professional road racing and now runs an annual Gran Fondo charity ride (October 5th), as well as dabbling in the occasional local race.
We noticed he was entering the Downieville classic on twitter and reached across social mediums for a little pre-race interview. So drop past the break to learn how fast he can change a flat!
What is the day to day riding/training schedule of a former pro road racer?
I love to ride my bike, always have and always will. After being a pro for 17 years I feel like riding hard and riding a lot is ingrained in me, it’s who I am. I’m not happy unless I get to ride on a consistent basis. All that being said, I don’t necessarily “train” like I used to when everyday was mapped out and everything was very specific. I still like to do long rides on my road bike but not day after day anymore. There are a few pros who live in Sonoma County so I like to go out and ride with them to stay strong. I spend a lot more time on my mountain bikes and jump in all the local XCs and dirt crits, I really enjoy it. I’ve always wanted to race a little on the mtb and now is my chance.
What sort of training regimen did you undergo to prepare for the classic? And why enter the all mountain rather than the XC race?
Like I said I’ve done a few mtb races already this year so I’m more familiar with it than I’ve ever been. The last time I raced was Leadville in 2010 so it’s taken a while to get going. I want to improve my skills on the mtb so competing in the AM will force me to do my best in an area where I’m obviously not the favorite. I’m willing to be in the middle of the pack rather than focus on what I’m good at, besides the XC isn’t over at the top of the climb! I need to be able to get myself down the mountain into town.
Do you have a favorite section or area where you’re hoping to save precious seconds?
I love the downhills but I know the massive climb out of the start plays to my strength so I’m hoping I can use it to my advantage. I know there are a few technical sections I will lose time on but I think I can still do well.
Is there anything special about your bike setup?
Glenn Fant, who is not only one of my best friends, but owns a bike shop and has raced Downieville almost every year has been a personal mechanic for me at races like Tour of California, Switzerland, and the Tour de France. He pretty much chose every piece on my bike. My 2013 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR is all SRAM and RockShox. I’m riding XX1 with a 34 tooth chain ring. The wheels are the new SRAM Rise 60s. The front tire is a Specialized 2.3 Ground Control and the rear is a Specialized 2.2 Fast Trak. The fork is a RockShox 150/120 Dual Position Pike. The rear shock is a RockShox Monarch Plus. The dropper post is a RockShox Reverb Stealth. The saddle is a Specialized Phenom.
Why did you pick your Stumpjumper 29er over the Enduro 29er?
I was actually contemplating the choice between my Specialized Epic and the Stumpy. I was thinking of putting those big tires and the seat dropper on my Epic, but then the weight of the two bikes wouldn’t be far off – so I went with the Stumpy for more travel on the downhills.
Are you a water bottle or hydration pack kind of trail guy?
I prefer water bottles but I do wear a CamelBak when I do all day rides with my friends. I’ll start with one bottle and take a feed at the top of the climb on Saturday.
Come raceday, what supplies will you be carrying?
I will carry a small bag in my back pocket with a tube, a CO2 and a tire lever. I’m a minimalist. Downieville is notorious for destroying…everything. In a pinch, how fast can you change a flat?
I’ve heard Downieville is very hard on equipment. My buddy Glenn and the King of Downieville himself, Mark Weir, both told me to put on heavy tires and don’t run them too low, so I’m hoping I won’t flat because as a road pro I cannot change a flat quick at all!!