Levi Leipheimer wins 2008 Tour of California time trial
Enthusiastic fans in Solvang welcomed professional cyclists from 17 international and domestic teams for the critical Stage 5 individual time trial of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California. After a challenging day of racing yesterday, the riders were faced with a 15-mile course that was dominated by Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Astana for the second consecutive year. Besting David Millar (GBR) of Team Slipstream/Chipotle Presented by H30 by 29 seconds, Leipheimer further built on his overall lead in the 2008 race and will wear the Amgen Leader Jersey going into Stage 6 tomorrow.
Moving into second and third were Team Slipstream/Chipotle riders David Millar and Christian Vande Velde (USA), respectively.
Racing on a 15-mile course in surprisingly dry conditions, Leipheimer rolled out of the start gate with confidence. Coming off a savage 135-mile stage on Thursday, most of the cyclists struggled to beat the 33-minute barrier. Of the early riders, Bradley Wiggins (GBR) of Team High Road posted 32:16, which was sufficient to keep the lead for the first part of the day.
But in this ‘race of truth,’ each rider alone against the clock, the competition became tougher as the race went on, and the top-five finishers would crack the 32-minute barrier.
“It was very windy out there,” said Vande Velde, noting the crosswind gusts between buildings in certain sections actually pushed him to a 45-degree position. “I almost got thrown off my bike. I had to settle in.”
Vande Velde was the first rider to break through the 32-minute barrier, posting a 31:31, but that time would soon be beat by another strong rider, his teammate Millar. Millar, a former World Champion and winner of a Tour de France individual time trial, whipped into the finish stretch and posted a seemingly untouchable 31:15.
The most anticipated rider of the day, World Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara (SUI) of Team CSC, who demonstrated amazing fitness on Wednesday to take the stage and rival Leipheimer, came in fifth today with a time of 31:51, which put him in fourth place overall going into tomorrow’s stage.
“Today was a statement about my actual fitness,” said Cancellara, who wore the Amgen Leader Jersey on Monday and Tuesday. “I did a very good stage to San Jose and I think I paid the price today.”
All heads swiveled to the monitors to see Leipheimer, clearly on a great ride.
Leipheimer hit the tape to post an amazing time of 30:46. Despite wind, turns and hills, he had powered his bike nearly 30 mph for a half hour and crushed the competition at every time split.
“This may be an even bigger win for me than last year,” said Leipheimer. “It was another great day for me here in Solvang. I’m just so happy and proud. I gave it my all today.” Don't you always?
Going into the final two stages, the Astana team will work to help Leipheimer keep the Amgen Leader Jersey and defend his title as the winner of the 2007 Amgen Tour of California.
“Solvang has been fantastic; the support here is tremendous,” said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports, presenter of the race. “The roads were packed and it was a true celebration of American cycling. The time gap between the three leaders is minimal, so we have two terrific days of racing ahead of us.”
Today’s stage didn’t bring any changes to the jersey winners. Dominique Rollin (CAN) of the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team retained the Herbalife Sprint Leader Jersey and the Tachyon Most Aggressive Rider Jersey for a second day. Scott Nydam (USA) from Team BMC claimed the California Travel and Tourism King of the Mountains Jersey for the third consecutive day. Robert Gesink (NED) of Rabobank held onto the Union Bank of California Best Young Rider Jersey. Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30 is now leading the team classification.
Title sponsor Amgen will hold another "Breakaway Mile" tomorrow on the final mile of the course before the peloton streaks into Santa Clarita.
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