Levi Leipheimer Wins in Tour of the Gila
Levi Leipheimer won the first stage of the 23rd Tour of the Gila from Silver City to Mogollon (151 km/94.1 mi). With the start of the 2009 Giro d'Italia/Tour of Italy just ten days away, Leipheimer is clearly doing more than a tune-up for Italy. Under the flag of Mellow Johnny’s, Lance Armstrong’s Austin bike shop, Leipheimer sprang from the pack on the final climb to Fort Bayard. Second place went to Peter Stetina (Team Felt) and third to Chris Baldwin of Team Rock Racing.
With the dramatic backdrop of the southwest desert of New Mexico playing out before the riders, Armstrong and teammate Chris Horner made their return to racing after accidents in March took them from the racing peloton. Once the three-mile final climb pitched up Armstrong and Leipheimer lead five others away from the field, including Baldwin, Stetina and Rory Sutherland (Team Ouch). Armstrong led Leipheimer up the climb before the Tour of California and Tour of Castilla y León winner Leipheimer launched with two miles to go and took the win.
“As we only knew since yesterday that we would participate here, we started with small ambitions, but when you feel good and you have a winner’s mentality, it is difficult to stay quiet in the peloton”, commented Leipheimer. “I like to win and Lance motivated me to jump away on the final climb. I have no team here to control the race for me, but I will try to defend this nice red leader’s jersey”, concluded Levi Leipheimer after his sixth victory of the season.