Johan Bruyneel on the 2011 Fan Choice Awards:
This is the third year where we gave fans the opportunity to vote for the most outstanding riders and performances from the season. When the idea was initially presented to me a few years ago, I was a bit unsure if that was something we should do. Our whole focus is about the team; something that singles out one rider would seem to go against our philosophy. I was convinced by some of our staff that this is something fun for the fans to participate in and that teams in other sports also give their fans the same or similar opportunities. So while I agree it's fun for many and nice for the riders who have been nominated and won, I want to re-emphasize that the success of our team does not lie on the shoulders of one rider. In fact, it goes beyond the riders - it extends to directors, mechanics, soigneurs, the entire support staff, our dedicated sponsors and of course, the loyal fans who have followed from USPS to Discovery Channel to Astana to RadioShack. I hope that many will come along with us on our new and exciting journey in 2012. Thank you - Johan
Johan Bruyneel on the 2011 Most Valuable Rider & Most Valuable American Rider:
The highest praise and distinction from the fans is the Most Valuable Rider, who also happens to be this year's Most Valuable American Rider - Levi Leipheimer. Looking back on Levi's year, I think it's important to recognize Levi's mental toughness. When he didn't win the Tour of California, a race that he won three times in the past, he came back even stronger with a great performance and victory in the Tour de Suisse. When he crashed numerous times in the Tour, he found the will to finish the race. After the Tour, he refocused and won both Utah and Colorado, which helped us complete the "Grand Slam of American cycling". And when he lost the jersey in Colorado, he didn't lose hope, but rather became stronger in a successful effort to regain the jersey. These instances do not only define physical strength, but equally important, mental strength. Congratulations Levi.
Interview with Levi Leipheimer (Winner of signed jersey after interview) by JohanBruyneel.com Staff
Q: You had numerous victories in 2011. What would you say has been the highlight or most memorable?
LL: Well it's tough to choose just one. The last day in Switzerland was pretty special. The time-trial and then waiting for Damieno Cunego to finish to see if i won. The anticipation and then a huge sigh of relief and happiness. It's one of the oldest and most prestigious races in the world and arguably one of the biggest victories of my career. But I also need to recognize the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. The way that it played out - getting the jersey, losing it and then getting it back. All in front of just massive and passionate crowds. It's the reincarnation of the Coors Classic, which was a race that I read about when I was thirteen years old. That race inspired me to start riding my bike so to win the race in its first year brings back some special childhood memories.
Q: Talk a little more about the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. A new big race in the US.
LL: Yea, it's great. We have three major stage races now - California, Colorado and Utah. Each race brings over some of the best riders from throughout the world. I think that says a lot about the current state of cycling here in the US. And Colorado really just blew everyone away. I don't think anyone expected that level of success in the first year. I wish all these races success for the future and I will do everything I can to see them continue to succeed.
Q: Johan talks about your mental toughness. You don't win the Tour of California, but you come back and win Tour de Suisse. Then you have numerous crashes in the Tour de France, but you come back and win the Tour of Utah. You take the jersey in Colorado, lose it and then get it back. Talk about your mental toughness. Is it something you've been born with?
LL: I don't know if it's something you're born with, but it's something I think that gets developed in childhood. But honestly, it really goes hand and hand with going out there and pedaling your bike. Training with all your heart and mind. And then all those years of racing. Getting beat, suffering. It's the toughest sport. Especially when it comes to the Tour - Anyone who races the Tour is just tough as nails. You don't and can't get to the Tour without being tough. You don't finish the race without being tough. Fortunately, I've been doing those races at that level for many years. Some people may look at it as mental toughness, but I also look at it as experience. If I'm having a bad Tour, like I did this year, I'll refocus and set new goals. This Tour was really tough and I was motivated to keep trying and working hard with having Utah and USA Pro Cycling Challenge in the back of my mind.
Q: You're a rider who has continued to find success with age. When a lot of cyclists have faded, you continue to win and be competitive. What do you attribute that to?
LL: Well I think it's a stigma that once you get into your mid-thirties your body declines and you can't be good. Chris and I have somewhat disproved that. I live a very healthy lifestyle, I work and train hard, I eat well, I respect my body. And maybe more than anything - I love this sport, I love what I do, I love riding my bike. And every year I am reminded of that and my belief in what I do is strengthened. I don't take it for granted. And since I'm not getting slower, there's no reason to stop.
Q: You've been with this organization since 2007. Next year, you're moving on. What have you learned that you will take with you on your new journey?
LL: Don't forget 2000 and 2001. So in total, I've spent seven years with Johan and this organization. I won a lot under Johan, especially these last five years. Tour de France time-trial victory, Tour podium, three Tour of California championships to name a few highlights. I've really gained a winning mentality and attitude. How to win, my outlook and goals and then not compromising. I don't think I can put it any better than that.
Q: The fans have voted you the Most Valuable Rider, Most Valuable American Rider and Best Tweeter of 2011. What message would you like to send to them?
LL: A BIG thank you. I travel around and meet a lot of people that say they follow my career. They can recall my victories and name the teams I've raced for. I'm always somewhat surprised. I'm just a guy who loves to ride and race my bike. So when I hear that from the fans, it means a lot to me. It's an honor to be recognized by the fans and it's something I don't take for granted.
Is this your Facebook profile picture? Then you're a winner! You're a fan of Johan's Facebook page, you voted in the 2011 Fan Choice Awards and you have been randomly chosen to win a signed jersey. Congratulations!
2011 Fan Choice Award Winners