Levi's not blue: Utah's Leipheimer relaxing after big cycling season

Published: Friday, Sept. 28 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

"Yep, that's pretty much all we talk about," he said, only half sarcastically over dinner. "I hope now that Floyd's deal is kind of over, that we can move on. Everyone acts like we're the dirtiest athletes in the world, when I think the reality is we are the cleanest. We get tested all the time. They show up at your door unannounced and test you. We're tested before races and after races. We're tested all the time.

"When someone gets caught it gets all the attention," Leipheimer said. "But do you really think we're dirtier than football players who hardly even get tested?"

Still, the scandals have hurt the sport more than the headlines tell.

Sponsors have decided to not renew their contracts with teams — Discovery Channel, the most successful team in the world for the past decade, failed to secure a title sponsor and simply pulled the plug on operations leaving dozens of cyclists, coaches and support staff looking for work — and some races such as the Tour of Utah and Tour of Georgia were unable to secure enough corporate sponsorship with Utah being canceled and Georgia needing a late infusion of state money.

Still, cycling is growing in many ways, Leipheimer said, with more people taking up the sport on a competitive level than ever before.

Leipheimer is set to be part of a 100-mile ride today over Wolf Creek Pass with the campers Testa is working with.

He'll then return to his California home with his wife, former pro cyclist Odessa Gunn, and prepare for the 2008 cycling season. He'll eventually return to his European base of operation in Spain as he tries to move another step or two up the podium.

Until then, he's not going to shy away from his month or two of dietary indulgence.

E-mail: jeborn@desnews.com

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