Levi Leipheimer leads 2008 Tour of California

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02/21/2008| 0 comments
by Thomas Valentinsen
Riders climb.
Riders climb.

Levi Leipheimer leads 2008 Tour of California

Rabobank?s Robert Gesink wins stage 3 as challenging day separates riders and shakes up remaining general classification leaders.

After completing one of the most challenging and defining stages of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California, which included the brutal Mt. Hamilton (Hors Category) and Sierra Road (Cat. 1) climbs, cycling?s new generation shined again as 21-year-old Robert Gesink (NED) of Rabobank took the stage win.  While Santa Rosa California resident Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team Astana was outsprinted by Gesink for the stage win, the defending champion none-the-less gained the event?s overall lead.  As the one of most difficult stages in the 2008 Amgen Tour of California, the 103-mile Stage 3 course from Modesto to San Jose featured 165 turns and two critical climbs that separated the pack. 

?This win is really great for me because the field of riders is very competitive in the Amgen Tour of California,? said Gesink. ?Today was a really big win for our team; we were strong as a team today.?

After struggling early on due to a stomach virus, Tyler Farrar (USA) of Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30, who won the Amgen Leader Jersey the day before in Sacramento, abandoned the race after the second climb. The guys here at Roadcycling.com all wish him a speedy recovery.

Early in the race, there was a breakaway that consisted of three riders, including Scott Nydam (USA) of Team BMC, Paul Martens (GER) of Rabobank and Cyril Lemoine (FRA) of Credit Agricole, which was eventually joined by Steven Cozza (USA) of Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30.  This foursome built up a sizable gap of six minutes and took three of the stage?s mountains together.  But the fourth climb, Mt. Hamilton, which earned the ?Beyond Category? designation due to its height and severity, would shatter the break.  During this ascent Team Astana, driven by Jose Luis Rubiera Vigil (ESP), applied the hard pressure.  They retrieved all four riders and whittled the field down to just 15 riders.

As the riders crested the top of Mt. Hamilton, George Hincapie (USA) of Team High Road made a daring attack on the descent, attempting to go for the stage win.  ?My plan was to get away and to get the stage win,? said Hincapie.  ?I made a break for it today, which was risky.?

Directly following Mt. Hamilton the riders were faced with the steep grade of Sierra Road, which is positioned just 20 miles from the finish in San Jose.  The group of 14 riders retrieved Hincapie and was eventually boiled down to an elite four: Gesink, Leipheimer, Chris Horner (USA) of Astana and David Zabriskie (USA) of Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30.  As they neared the top, Gesink applied more pressure and pulled away.

As the breakaway group went over the top, with only 17 miles to go, they only had a minute advantage over the peloton.  As they bottomed out onto the streets of San Jose, they learned a large chase group was charging hard to catch them.  In that group rode Zabriskie, who has won time trial stages in the Tour de France and two national championships; his Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30 teammate David Milllar

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