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Livingston’s big switch

He was there in the Pyrenees, there in the Alps, always ready to do the work necessary to aid in the effort. Like all serious team players, he was willing to put personal ambition aside and maintain focus on the big picture. For the last two years, that big picture has involved a guy named Lance Armstrong and a yellow jersey. This year the jersey is the same color, but Kevin Livingston is ready to do his best to see that someone else is wearing it on the streets of Paris on July 29. In Livingston’s case, his best can amount to a serious contribution. In 1999, Livingston was almost always at

Kevin Livingston is ready to work … for Ullrich

He was there in the Pyrenees, there in the Alps, always ready to do the work necessary to aid in the effort. Like all serious team players, he was willing to put personal ambition aside and maintain focus on the big picture. For the last two years, that big picture has involved a guy named Lance Armstrong and a yellow jersey. This year the jersey is the same color, but Kevin Livingston is ready to do his best to see that someone else is wearing it on the streets of Paris on July 29.

In Livingston’s case, his best can amount to a serious contribution. In 1999, Livingston was almost always at Armstrong’s side in the most mountainous stages of the Tour. On the Galibier he rode heroically, setting pace for his team leader, wearing out the competition, working just out of the limelight. Even last year as he came back from a broken collarbone a few weeks before the Tour, Livingston was there, adding to the effort, contributing what he could to the team.

But as the 2000 season wound down, Livingston was becoming restless and ready, perhaps, to take over a leadership role on his own team. His relationship with Armstrong was growing strained, and Livingston was ready for a change.

“I don’t know where it was where we kind of turned apart last year … I’m not sure,” Livingston said. “I was ready to go and then I got an offer that was just too good to turn down.”

The Linda McCartney team was on the hunt for a GC rider and Livingston was available. The deal never worked out, however, and Livingston found himself a free agent. But not for long; Deutsche Telekom jumped at the chance to sign a rider with a good reputation as a team player. The man from Postal was back in the role as a trusted lieutenant, now riding for the Germans … and one German in particular, 1997 Tour winner Jan Ullrich.

“Right away, it clicked,” Livingston said. “He’s a quiet guy, to be sure, but at the same time he’s easy to talk with and he’s fun to be around. I like him and that makes it a lot easier to do the job.”

A new team, a new boss and a new approach to getting ready for the Tour. For the first time in his career, Livingston is riding both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.

“I’ve never done this sort of race program to get ready for the Tour,” he said. “It’s a lot to do…. Instead of the very safe approach I’ve always taken to the Tour. I was always very careful not to overdo it, keep the racing down to the Dauphiné and the Route du Sud … not a lot of racing. But this year, I’m doing the Giro and then going into the Tour. Admittedly, it’s a lot to do, but maybe it can bring me up another level.”

Livingston quickly added that moving up another level does not mean his goals now include adding stage wins to his own résumé.

“That’s not in the team plan,” Livingston said. “It was the same at Postal. It was never in the plan that I or anyone other than Lance would go for a stage win [in the mountains]. We were there to work for Lance, and this year I’ll be there to work for Jan. That’s my job. To set personal goals of trying to stay at the front after doing the work on the climb — that’s sort of dreaming. I knew what my role would be. It wouldn’t do anyone any good to make these crazy announcements about my personal ambitions. My only objective has to be to help Jan win the Tour. And we can do that, I’m sure.” And with a man like Livingston at his side, Ullrich might just pull it off.