The 2013 Amgen Tour of California will finish in Santa Rosa this afternoon. Will Levi Leipheimer, the Santa Rosa resident who has won the race three times, be there to welcome the cyclists home? I dunno.
Did Amgen ask Leipheimer to come and give a short speech on how proud he is of his adopted hometown to be the last stage of America's premier cycling event? Got me.
Does Leipheimer feel like a persona non grata, a cycling pariah, after admitting in October that he doped for eight years as a pro? Is he still embarrassed? Is he shy going out in public? Has he ever been harassed on the street? Wish I knew.
Leipheimer has decided not to speak publicly about his life since he spoke to me Oct. 16. Leipheimer certainly has that right, as freedom of speech also means freedom not to speak, and I'm not naming any names, Barry Bonds, but some athletes would be better served to keep their pie hole shut.
Leipheimer, however, is not one of them. A famous quote by John F. Kennedy reminds me of that.
"To those whom much is given," wrote the president in his memoir, "much is expected."
Indeed, Leipheimer has been given much, starting with that God-given ability to pedal a bicycle with the best in the world. His athleticism was a wonder, still is, and it translated to gold medals, global acclaim, financial comfort and an adoring fan base. His profile became singular in Sonoma County as he championed the landscape as a world-class cycling destination. Leipheimer's charity-driven Gran Fondo created such an impact that the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce named him Businessman of the Year in 2010.
Yes, Leipheimer has received much.
So Leipheimer's silence is noteworthy. He wasn't a one-year marvel, a blip on our radar, someone who came and went. In fact, he made it a point to tell us he was staying for the duration. On Sept. 29, Leipheimer said he would love to grow old here and be remembered as the guy who started the GranFondo.
"I would trade all the medals I have won for that honor," he said.
Wow, I said to myself at the time, the man has perspective, he has his priorities in order.
Now, I wonder. Did Leipheimer say all that because he knew what was coming? Less than two weeks later, on Oct. 10, the United States Anti-Doping Agency would announce that 11 former teammates of Lance Armstrong had testified that Armstrong ran a sophisticated doping ring. They doped and helped Armstrong run the program. As one of those 11 riders, knowing his life and his reputation were about to change dramatically, was Leipheimer building an exit strategy?
Continue to build upon the GranFondo, make it eventually bigger news than the doping. Was that it? And did he see the necessity of the GranFondo years before this, knowing USADA would do anything to nail Armstrong, including squeezing his former teammates? Is that true?
I would like to have asked Leipheimer those questions and I would like to have heard "no" in all responses. I want the GranFondo to be free from sin. To date, the event in five years has raised $917,860, according to Greg Fisher of Bike Monkey, the organization that shepherds the Fondo. That's a lot of green. That's a lot of love given back to the community, welcome funding to cities, streets, fire departments, foster youth programs. Na?e me, I want to believe that number wouldn't be smaller if people knew Leipheimer doped.