The 2011 Tour de Suisse champion, Levi Leipheimer, is appreciating Switzerland like never before, during the 2021 Swiss Epic. Having taken up a last-minute entry, to join fellow American Lee Strawbridge, Leipheimer is revelling in the joys of mountain biking in Graubünden.
Riding under the team name Leithally Unprepared, one might expect the former road racer to be a little out of his depth. That is not the case however, as his partner, Strawbridge, explained: “The team name actually comes from a combination of myself, Lee, and my original Swiss Epic partner, Keith. We were terribly unprepared and asking all sorts of questions. Keith unfortunately had to withdraw, following a tragic accident, but luckily my friend Levi could step in for him.”
Not many riders can call upon a double national champion as an emergency teammate. Especially one so adept at mountain biking too. “It was an easy decision” Leipheimer smiled. “I raced a lot in Switzerland, during my career on the road, and really love the country. My friend Edward [Wimmer], of Road iD, asked if I would come along and join Lee. And, yeah, it was a pretty easy decision.”
“Physically I knew I could finish the Swiss Epic, because I ride my mountain bike a lot” Leipheimer said. “That said, I’ve been blown away by the beauty of the race. I can’t describe it. It’s so beautiful and the riding has been so much fun. One thing that I’ve really enjoyed is seeing teams throughout the stages. You catch some, then they pass you later on. You’re always seeing the same people and you start to form a bond with the teams you’re sharing the trails with. It’s pretty fun.”
“I would encourage professionals from the road to take part in an Epic Series event, especially those that are retired and have the time” the three-time Tour of California winner advised. “What we rode through today and what we saw was really a once in a life-time experience. I kept thinking about how I’ve been to St. Moritz before – on training camps, in the Tour of Switzerland and in the Giro d’Italia – but today, for the first time, I really appreciated it. I was always so focused and didn’t really open my eyes. So, it’s really cool to be here and to be able to appreciate it to the fullest.”