Levi Leipheimer Specialized Stumpjumper
The race steed

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.
Levi Leipheimer Specialized Stumpjumper Drivetrain
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.
Levi Leipheimer Specialized Stumpjumper Rear View

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.
Levi Leipheimer Specialized Stumpjumper Front View
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!!


  1. disgraced doper who cant get a contract now racing “other” races. we dont need you, we dont want you. go home!

  2. once again, more people wanting to state negative opinions. “WoofWoof” and “me that’s who”, just because you CAN leave a comment, doesn’t mean you should.

    Levi, best of luck, and best of luck to everyone riding in the race.

  3. I’m with Craig, don’t want to read about Levi, don’t click the link. Also, I guess the negative posters are perfect and have never done anything wrong or made mistakes. Levi is a kind and gracious man not seeking out attention or interviews. He’s getting on with his life. Sure would be nice if all the negative nellies could get on with their lives too. Allez Levi!

  4. it may be a negative comment but its necessary for us to clean this sport up. letting people who have been suspended for doping enter races with no doping controls enter like they havent wronged this sport and the people who compete in it is wrong. it is time for promoters to say no. forget the extra publicity this brings, think about the people who have done things right for a minute.

  5. I think it’s great that Levis’s moving on and enjoying life. Personally I could give thee shits about his past, he still has an interesting perspective on riding and racing. Besides leaving all the negative comments your keyboard can handle won’t change the past or do anything to clean up “our” sport, supporting teams and riders who are racing now will at least help.

  6. @ me that’s who, you go find us all the guys that were clean during that time and prove it to us and then you can get on your high horse. That was the era, same as baseball. If they didn’t get caught can we really prove they were 100% clean?

  7. Levi is a good guy in my opinion. He doped when everyone else did – so be it. If you want to hate on doping you might as well hate every pro that’s ever raced. IMO everyone is guilty. It’s history now, time to move on.

  8. woof/me, better serial doper than serial a**-hole i guess. levi, you’re still a hero, come ride with me anytime, i’ll always be nterested. pay no attention to twits.

  9. Great. All roadies should go MTB. Its more fun, and less dependend on dope. And they should all lend a hand in trail access. He lives in Santa Rosa, near Marin, where all MTB is banned and bikes confiscated on trails.

  10. Well, how about if Mr. Leiphemier gives back all his winings, since he basically lied to get his swanky house in Santa Rosa. Why should he get a break? Other people in other professions are punished when they lie!

  11. The problem is that this website via Saris is supporting a doper and therefore condones doping… He made a living cheating along with several others. I don’t get it…

  12. This isn’t about a stupid pro race corporate carnival scene. There’s never gonna be a “clean sport” as long as it’s infested with huge banks, huge media and millions for the so called winners and everyone including the haters knows it. Maybe its time to grow up and let the guy ride his bike without constantly bringing up this pathetic goody two shoes moralizing nonsense.

  13. Levi has been trading on his “nice, clean guy who everybody loves” persona as long as he’s been a pro- too bad he was lying and cheating the entire time. It’s a whole lot harder to think highly of someone doing philanthropic deeds when it turns out they made most of their money illegally. Doing good things in no way equates to everybody forgiving you, and I think it’s a sad state of affairs that people aren’t more angry at long time dopers STILL trading on their “nice guy” image (Vaughters, Levi, Danielson, Zabriskie….)

  14. Rain is right. In my view, pro sports–all of them, even our “pure” sport–are analogous to the gladiator spectacle of Roman times. (One could argue our entire country is analogous to the Roman Empire.) If they dope, so be it. Holding a spectacle too tightly isn’t a good idea. It isn’t in any way real, and expecting the participants to be “human” is unrealistic. There’s too much money to be made for so-called honest folk to really dig in. If you consider doping to be a mistake, can you prove you’ve never made one your own self? I make them every day. All day. Of course, I don’t believe doping is a mistake, and even if it is, the advantage one gains is small. It certainly won’t take a Cat II crit racer to Levi’s level, and even less to Quintana’s. I will admit I don’t much care what pros have to say, but that’s simply because they’re pros. Get paid to do something normal folk pay good sums of cash to do, and all my sympathy goes out the window.

  15. My questions for Levi are this: What doping products is he planning to use for the downieville classic and what did he use to win the Crusher in the Tusher. And when is he going to return the ore cart to the Leadville 100 so they can give it to JHK.

  16. I’m ok with Levi, but I am definitely not a fan. He doped, and it irritates me that guys like him state all the time that it was part of the game.

  17. the complainers seem like they feel as if XC had no dopers, and even if they wanted to dope they would race on road exclusively. I don’t believe it, but between Rain and filibuster’s perspectives, there must be someone out there who sees succeeding at MTB races as worth the risk to try doping. I see the some of the same personality types in both styles of racing, so I assume it’s not just road racers doping.
    This article is about one racer’s approach where he can run whatever he wants, not his ethical status. I would like a similar setup, but with a command post instead of a reverb, 28T chainring, and flat pedals.

  18. I wish the doping issue would die, for good. To all the haters and fans, cycling and all sports and competitive things in life drive people to push beyond normal limits. Doping, cheating on an exam, speeding in your local school zone, cheating in a relationship, texting on the freeway, it’s human nature to excel. For all of you, here you go, get ready:

    “Sorry I doped, used EPO, HGH, STERIODS, Blood Doped, blah, blah, blah, etc, but it felt so damn good and all the other kids were doing it!”

    Everyone feel better, now let’s go back to looking the other way and go enjoy riding our bikes. Save your holier than thou, for the churches. This is about having fun and watching people achieve things we only dream of!
    Good luck, Levi. MTB sure can be fun!

  19. Guess commenting on the bike feature itself was not as interesting and sensational as turning this into a doping thread.

  20. Good luck to you Levi, never mind the finger pointers that criticize,if you nothing good to say don’t say it. I hope you win D.

  21. Racers who rode in the era when only dopers won, including Levi and Lance, were only “leveling the playing field”. At least that is how I feel and because so many have either not been caught, have not confessed or have and still retain there trophies, I agree with Ulrich that Lance’s Tour wins should be reinstated and we should all just move on. Levi’s past bothers me no more than any of them and I hope his future is a lot more peaceful than when he was virtually required to poison himself to win races.

  22. Nah. Levi, and Lane especially made then playing field less level than ever. If EPO was such a great “playing field leveler” and everybody was doing it, then you would have several different guys winning every year instead of the most doped up guy winning 7 years in a row.

  23. I’m guessing everyone on here has a job. If you have a chance to make it to the big time but someone else took that spot who lied and cheated to get there I hardly think you would be making these kinds of excuses for that person as well. There were plenty of clean honest cyclists out there. It’s just that they couldn’t compete with the dopers. If you were forced to compete for your job with someone that had a better but fake degree than yours, better but faked previous experience and lied about everything else to get the job you wouldn’t be working where you are either. After reading the sworn statements from the LA investigation, my opinion is that Levi’s cheating was only second to Lance’s.

  24. Cycling is viewed by mainstream society as some fringe sport with as many drug fueled athletes as bodybuilding. Don’t even state otherwise. Not even MLB baseball or football is equated to such “who cares” status. And we have people like Levi and Lance to thank for that. To the public, cycling is not a legitimate sport. Levi, Lance, and dopers like them just need to go away and get out of cycling for good.

  25. If he wins, there will always be suspicion in everyone’s mind if he doped. I’m not sweating it as a roadie on a 29er is not going to win.

  26. I gotta admit, I kinda laughed when I read Levi simply described as “recently retired” in the opening of the article. It seems like it might be more honest to say Levi “recently left the sport of road racing after not being able to get a ProTour contract after his doping suspension was up.”

    I’m not totally sure if he got what he really deserved, but, not knowing the intricacies of the situation, it’s tough to judge. It is fair to say that he possibly took a job and money out of the pockets of clean racers, which is really dishonorable.

  27. I was there (Downieville) Levi rode, he crashed, he flatted. It was not a big deal in town for anyone. Nobody even really talked about it. We all had a great time. And smoked dope.

  28. It’s all about trust for me. How can you trust a guy that looked right into the camera and lied for so many years. If I can’t trust you then you can’t be a part of my beloved sport of Mountain Biking.
    Get off the mountain trails you lying sack of shite. You are a disgrace to the creed of Mountain Bikers. Go back to the still dopin roadie crowd. You’ll fit right in.

  29. @ thejonpalmer

    hahaha awesome! Thanks for the real story.

    And to all those who worried and cried about him going to win for doping….. HA

  30. @AZBikeFreak: Nobody cares about trust. He is not your husband, is he?

    People do not care about road cycling because it is a bunch of freaks in colorful tights riding around roads. Nothing to get excited about. It is not about dope.

    Worst thing that actually happened was USADA’s vendetta against retired Lance. Nobody needed that, and nobody gained anything from it. Do not like dopers – run better tests.

  31. Yeah calling him “retired” is pretty generous, even if it is factually accurate. Anyway, he smoked everyone up the hill but the word is that he got a flat and then later crashed. So all of you who were worried about him winning can exhale and put down your flamethrowers, it didn’t happen.

  32. Oddly enough, Levi is very likely clean now. I have doubts that most of the masters-age winners will be clean and the same can be said of the pros. The only reason why Levi would be clean? He has nothing to prove and isn’t doing this for a paycheck.

  33. Levi is proof positive that doping crime does indeed pay. It pays big and especially here in the US. The dude is still treated special, is still sponsored by the big red S and is still treated like some kind of a star.

    He is in fact a disgraced cheater. He was banned. That ban may have ended by now. No matter, he doesn’t care. Since he can’t call himself a road pro anymore, he chooses to stink up our mountainbike racing.

    Shame on Levi and shame on the Downieville promoters for allowing it. I have raced many of the classic and historic mtb races. I have never raced Downieville, but have always wanted to do so. That changed when I read about this.

    I will not be racing Downieville.

What do you think?