By Andrew Hood
Levi Leipheimer is getting to know his new Gerolsteiner teammates at the team’s annual training camp in Mallorca off the Spanish coast. After three seasons with Rabobank, the 31-year-old Californian said he’s excited about the new opportunities after joining the German team for what’s a two-year deal.
VeloNews European correspondent Andrew Hood sat down with Leipheimer this week. Check back later this week for the complete interview. VeloNews: You’ve reached a point where you want to step up your goals?
Levi Leipheimer: “Definitely, eighth in my first Tour, ninth in my second to confirm it, there’s no reason to get seventh or sixth again. I want a top-5, and if you’re in the top-5, you never know what can happen with a little bit of luck. I’m not going to worry too much about holding on to a high place and risk a little more and go for the stage win, even if I’m sitting in eighth place in the third week, I’ll go for the break, if they want to chase from behind, they can chase.” VN: Is that something you’ve spoken with the Gerolsteiner staff or is that a personal decision that you’ve made?
LL: “They’re looking for someone to step up. I’ve had my Tour de France apprenticeship at Rabobank, now I can put my experience to use and hopefully improve.” Phonak boss decides to press on
Andy Rihs said he almost decided to shut down his Phonak team following a string of bad news that has left the Swiss team out of the Pro Tour for the upcoming season. Speaking to the Spanish daily MARCA, Rihs said he decided to continue spending $10 million a year on the team despite a tumultuous off-season that’s seen the team’s management replaced as well as doping cases involving star riders Oscar Camenzind, Tyler Hamilton and Santi Perez. “At first, I thought about quitting, but later I thought better of it,” Rihs said. “It’s a good team, well-organized and structured, and it was better to continue.” Rihs decided the best way to reshape the team’s image was to dispose of team manager Urs Freuler and sport director Alvaro Pino. Stepping into the void are former Tour de France official John Lelangue as team manager and former Mapei and Festina sport director Juan Fernandez. “The grand tours insinuated to us that we had to make changes to change the image and present ourselves as a new team,” Rihs said. “There’s nothing against Pino, and I thank him for his work, but wouldn’t just end this after so much work. I didn’t make the rules of the game and I had to change the management to give a new image. It wasn’t pleasant, but it had to be done.” Left out of the Pro Tour, Phonak is still hopeful of earning a wild-card bid to race the Tour. “Nothing is assured, but according to what they’ve told us, Jean-Marie Leblanc will make a decision this week,” Rihs continued. “For a team like ours, it’s hard to survive without the Tour. Valverde, Mancebo lead Illes Balears
Illes Balears will roll into the 2005 season without a co-sponsor after a deal to replace longtime sponsor Banesto fell through. Spanish airline Air Europa was expected to join the team as a secondary sponsor, but negotiations collapsed late. That didn’t stop team officials from officially presenting the team for the upcoming season. Led by Francisco Mancebo and Alejandro Valverde, the Spanish team enters the season with eyes toward the podium in both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. Illes Balears for 2005
“Chente” García Acosta