Sunday, January 16, 2011

2011 Poster/ Levi Leipheimer Interview

Chances are Levi will be out for the first Hopper. I had a chance to ask him a few questions about cycling in Sonoma County and the Hoppers. Don't forget to sign up for the Gran Fondo. It will fill up fast!

Q: How long have you been living in Sonoma County? I moved to Sonoma County in December 1996. I had just signed my first professional contract with a small domestic team Comptel-Colorado Cyclist and two of my teammates Kirk Willett and John Peters lived here and convinced me to come check it out. I’m glad they did! I drove a small truck packed with everything I had at the time and never left.

Q: As a professional cyclist who races and trains around the world you have said that Sonoma County is one of the best places to ride and train. Why is this and what other places are in the top three or five? Sonoma County is unique, there’s no denying it. Northern California is a rugged and treacherous place that is both beautiful and daunting at the same time. Everyone remembers their first time on a road like King Ridge, a road that exemplifies those qualities. I remember riding Skaggs and the Ridge on a wet foggy day about a month after I moved here. I’ll never forget that feeling of not knowing what lay around every corner and not seeing a car for hours. The best part is that we have more roads like that than anywhere I’ve ever been. That’s not to say I haven’t been able to enjoy some spectacular places around the world like the Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites and islands like Tenerife and Mallorca.

Q: There has always been a solid group of professional cyclists living and training in Sonoma County, both road and mountain bikers. Many come here to train and others create a home. With the Amgen Tour of California and Levi’s Gran Fondo how do you see Sonoma County growing as a cycling destination? There’s a rich cycling history in Sonoma County, from the Coors Classic to The Amgen Tour of California to The Gran Fondo, each inspiring the next. Along the way, Sonoma County has built a solid reputation as one of the best places on earth to ride your bike, any bike! We have an amazing opportunity right now to capitalize on that reputation to improve our cycling culture and infrastructure. We just need to do our part, no matter how big or how small. Take Bike Monkey for example, here’s a group of people extremely dedicated to the sport and more importantly to our community. They have invented a way to make their living promoting cycling and build something meaningful. In most cases, they left behind their careers. They’ve provided us with a high quality magazine to call our own, fantastic events like Boggs 8 hour, SoNoMas, Howarth Park Dirt Crits and the Monkey Cross Series. Together, we’ve got big ideas for the Gran Fondo and how it can improve Sonoma County. I feel very lucky to be a part of the same community. If you’re wondering what part you can play, you can start by supporting Bike Monkey and their events. Your participation or volunteering will go a long way in making Sonoma County the gold standard.

Q: There are a lot of strong riders in our area. Many top cyclists in the area work full time and many are raising kids and still find time to train. Many pro’s retire and never hang up their bike. There is a dedication and passion for cycling in our area that is like a fever. Can you comment about the passion for cycling that you see and feel in our area? The cycling community in Sonoma County is tenacious, committed and ambitious. I’ve met too many people to count who build their lives around the bike, people who soak up everything this county has to offer and then give it back in some way or another. They are Doctors, Lawyers, Dentists, School Teachers, Wine Makers, Restauranteurs, Contractors, Builders and the list goes on. There are also an awful lot of people who make their living from the sport here, from professionals like myself to bike shop owners and employees to ProTour team managers and staffers to manufacturers to coaches to event organizers to publishers, designers and writers. This community has been able to come together and start Sonoma County on a path towards something great. We are just getting started on that path and we are going to innovate and then inspire others along the way. In just 3 years, this extraordinary community has been able to build the largest mass participation event in the US that will host 7,500 cyclists and generate well over $250,000 in charitable proceeds for 2011, I think that says it all.

Q: The first Grasshopper I remember seeing you at was 8 or 10 years ago when you were riding for U.S. Postal. You came out with Mark H. and sat in for the first half and and then headed back to the flat lands for some motor pacing. The field size and depth has grown but many of the characters remain the same. I know you like to make it out for as many Grasshopper training rides as you can fit in. Why do you think the rides are unique or special? The Grasshoppers are cycling at it’s best; they’re fun, adventurous, social and more than a little competitive. They’ve grown over the years despite their underground nature. Where else can you show up to a 250+ person group ride and see people on cross, road and Mt bikes for the same course? The Grasshoppers run through the heart of Sonoma County, they “knight” you as a true Sonoma County Cyclist.
Team NorCal "All Blacks" on the day Lake Sonoma was canceled

(Nothing canceled this year!)

Q: Lastly. You built up a sweet cross ride for Hopper number one last year and I know we’ll see you out there this year for Old Caz. What’s the perfect bike set up for the first Hopper? Last year was my first Old Caz Hopper so I took a lead from guys like Roger Bartels and Shane Bresnyan who have ridden a few over the years. They’ve traditionally done it on Mt Bikes but convinced me to get a cross bike. I’m glad i did, there’s a lot of pavement despite the epic off road sections and the cross bike rolls better than a Mt Bike for most of the course. (So if you still don't have your cross bike dialed in, still time to swing by NorCal and get a new one! ...or get yours ready for the party)

Thanks Levi, hope to see you out there!


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