Leipheimer says he's done the event before, adding that his suspension doesn't bar him "from training and staying fit"
BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — Levi Leipheimer may be down for now, but he’s not out.
The American, currently serving a six-month ban from competition for admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs during his career, was photographed Saturday in what appeared to be a mountain-bike race dubbed the Old Caz Hopper, part of California’s Grasshopper Adventure Series.
This brought up some concerns for the rider, who’s not allowed to race any sanctioned events, per his suspension. Leipheimer said he took part to stay fit but asked to be left off the results sheet of the event, which is unsanctioned.
“First of all, I’m sanctioned and I take that very seriously. I would never jeopardize or do anything to prolong that,” he told VeloNews Monday.
“I know that [organizer Miguel Crawford] puts the results online. I said, ‘Listen, I’m just going to ride along, I’m not going to influence the ride.’”
Omega Pharma-Quick Step fired Leipheimer last fall after his doping admission. He testified in conjunction with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s probe into Lance Armstrong.
“My sanction doesn’t prohibit me from training and staying fit. This is a local adventure series, as they call it, that’s been going for years. I’ve always done it and supported the local cycling community,” Leipheimer said.
Asked if he won, Leipheimer said no.
“I just followed along and followed the strongest guy,” he said. “I don’t want to disrespect anybody, anybody who did it. My intention was to support the local cycling community.”
Peter Stetina (Garmin-Sharp) is listed as the winner of the event.
The Grasshopper Adventure Series, which is put on by Hopper Adventures LLC, is sanctioned neither by USA Cycling nor the Northern California Nevada Cycling Association, according to Crawford. It’s billed more as a collection of difficult rides than races.
“I did see Levi a while back and said he was welcome to join us en route if he’d like,” Crawford told VeloNews in an e-mail.
“He’ll sometimes ride from home, do a Hopper, and then follow up with some motorpacing. He was out on Saturday but was not officially involved or registered.
“These are adventure rides and training rides. You know how people choose to ‘race’ century rides and gran fondos, and this would fall into this category.”
Leipheimer said it was never his intent to appear to race in spite of a sanction, or offend any competitors or fans.
“If anybody had said, ‘I don’t think this is a good idea,’ I wouldn’t have done it,” he said. “I said, ‘Don’t count me in the results, I don’t feel right doing that, even it’s unsanctioned. I don’t want to disrespect anybody.'”
Leipheimer added that the event was “a big inspiration” for his own ride, Levi’s Gran Fondo.
“It’s really cool. It’s a lot of fun. It’s really what cycling is all about it,” he said.