The move to retirement, for many successful professional athletes, is like driving from asphalt onto a beach. They stop. They stall. They sink all the way up to their egos. They can't go forward and they can't go backward. They're stuck, bewildered, like how did I get here. Levi Leipheimer will not be driving one of those cars. He has the GranFondo. You might as well call it the GranConduit.
"The Fondo has been really good for our family," said Odessa Gunn, Leipheimer's wife. "The transition from a pro cyclist to a regular person can be tough. The Fondo has been as good for Levi as anyone riding in it. It has enabled him to focus on something other than (competitive) cycling."
Asked if he saw the Fondo four years ago as his eventual passage to a life beyond the Tour of California and European racing, Leipheimer said he never saw it that way. "In the beginning I thought a couple hundred people might show up," he said.
You know, let's have a nice, quiet ride and then hit the Riviera restaurant for dinner.
Four years later the event has grown to 7,500 and something that once started as a nice nod to the community has turned into this: At the end of his days, Leipheimer would love to look back and be remembered first as the GranFondo guy.
"I would trade all the medals I have won for that honor," Leipheimer said.
You would trade your Olympic medal?
Your podium finish at the Tour de France?