The Mehlting Pot: Let the Games Begin!
- by Cathy Mehl

Feb 17, 2008 - The Team Astana boys are ready to roll. There is no better way to prove to the world that the team deserves to race in the world's top races than to tackle the immediate task at hand, and that would be the Amgen Tour of California. With Levi Leipheimer serving as the reigning champion from last year, the team stands poised to battle all the way to Pasadena for a repeat performance. Eight stages and some 650 miles of beautiful scenic California beauty lie ahead of Team Astana as they begin the race on the campus of Stanford University for today's 2.1 mile quick dash to the line.

The team has been in Palo Alto since Thursday with many of the riders coming direct from Albuquerque and others flying in from Europe and Australia. The weather has been mostly warm and sunny everyday and the team has had plenty of time for daily training rides and rest, along with a little poolside basking in the sun.

Saturday was a busy day with the media in full force, looking for one-on-one interviews and waiting for the opening press conference which featured many of the top riders including Levi. Asked to comment on the ASO decision to exclude Team Astana from the Tour, Levi said, "First of all I think I would say that I'm really sad about what's happened to us in the last week. I can't speak for ASO; I don't know what it's thinking. I do know what I've read and that is that Contador has made himself available for questioning; he's offered his DNA to the proper authorities. I don't know what else we and Astana can do to prove to the world that we are on board with the new cycling."

Levi took the opportunity to hold up a t-shirt from the newly launched "Let Levi Ride 2008" campaign, launched from www.letleviride.com, an on-line petition is growing by leaps and bounds every hour.

Lots of fans were gathered around the team bus prior to the start, cheering on the new Astana and hoping to see some great results this week. If you're attending any of the stages be sure to swing by the bus and take some photos of the guys, and don't forget to visit the Trek booth to show support for Levi and Team Astana.

Here we go!