Levi Leipheimer, the Astana rider who abandoned this year’s Tour de France with a fractured wrist while lying fourth in the general classification, has confirmed that he will be joining Lance Armstrong’s new RadioShack team for the 2010 season.
RadioShack, which will be managed by Johan Bruyneel with Dirk Demol as directeur sportif, will be Leipheimer’s seventh professional team. The 35-year-old, who has won the last three editions of the Tour of California, joined Saturn in 1999 and subsequently rode for US Postal Service, Rabobank, Gerolsteiner and Discovery Channel before moving to Astana in 2008.
With Sergio Paulinho and Gregory Rast also signing for RadioShack, the team’s roster goes a long way towards answering questions surrounding the internal politics within the Astana team at this year’s Tour de France, where the relationship between Armstrong and eventual winner Alberto Contador became stretched beyond breaking point.
Two other former Astana riders joining RadioShack are the Spaniard José Luis Rubiera, whose climbing skills helped pave the way for five of Armstrong’s Tour de France wins, and the Lithuanian Tomas Vaitkus.
The other signings announced to date are both Belgian riders, Sébastien Rosseler, currently at Quick Step, and Gert Steegmans, who left Katusha last month after controversially refusing to sign the team’s anti-doping charter.
The signing of Leipheimer in particular will be a fillip for Armstrong following George Hincapie’s decision not to sign for RadioShack but instead to join BMC Racing, which has also recruited World Road Race Champion Alessandro Ballan.
Leipheimer, who has signed a two-year contract, said that "There were other possibilities, but I've signed with the best team in the world, an American team that's going to sign more American riders." He added that his plans next year will focus on the Tour of California, the Dauphiné Libéré and the Tour de France, which he described as "my three favourites races and my top objectives for next year."
The RadioShack team is scheduled to make its first appearance at next year's Tour Down Under, which begins on January 17.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.