Jens Voigt Takes His First U.S. Stage Victory in Stage Three of the 2007 Amgen Tour of California
Discovery Channel's Levi Leipheimer Retains Overall Lead While Race's Toughest Climb Separates Riders and Shakes Up Remaining General Classification Leaders.
After facing the brutal Sierra Road Category 1 climb approaching San Jose, Team CSC won its second consecutive stage with Jens Voight (GER) dominating most of the 94.8-mile (152.2km) stage with a time of 3:43.44 to best Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team's Levi Leipheimer (USA). Predictor-Lotto's Chris Horner (USA) rounded out the top three.
As expected, the Sierra Road climb separated the riders and shook up the general classification. With Santa Rosa's Leipheimer retaining the overall leader position by three seconds, Voigt and Health Net Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis' Rory Sutherland (AUS) overtook second and third place respectively. San Jose's Ben Jacques-Maynes of the Priority Health team entered the day's stage in third place heading into his hometown, but faltered to finish 3 minutes and 3 second behind the leaders, falling to 38th place overall. Nine riders failed to cross the finish line within the qualifying time and were eliminated from the race.
"Today was an incredible day for the sport, both in terms of the competition, as well as the enthusiasm the fans showed from Stockton to San Jose," said Shawn Hunter, president of AEG Sports, presenters of the race. "When the peloton came over Sierra Road, it was like parting the red sea to get through all the fans. After a day like this, no one can argue that there is an enormous appetite for cycling in America." Voigt rode with a breakaway that formed within the first five miles and quickly opened a gap that grew to five minutes by mile 55. Seventeen riders were in the breakaway, spurred on by Voigt, who in addition to the stage win was awarded the Adobe Most Aggressive Rider Jersey and the Herbalife Sprint Jersey. The Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, encouraged by words from Lance Armstrong following in a team car, battled to contain the deficit.
?Today was a bike ride. It was a huge battle; it was war out there,? said Leipheimer, who talked with Lance Armstrong throughout the race for encouragement. "He [Lance] understands that today was a real battle. He was 100 percent behind us cheering us on. It really made everyone dig, so it was special."
Seventy-three miles into the race, at the start of the decisive Sierra Road climb, which gained about
Discovery Channel Pro riders George Hincapie (USA) and Ivan Basso (ITA) launched Leipheimer?s attack as he pursued the leaders up the climb, and the entire field exploded under the pressure of the 10%+ gradient.
Predictor-Lotto's Chris Horner of Bend, Ore., and Rabobank's Robert Gesink (NED) managed to keep Leipheimer?s wheel, and the trio caught Voigt a little more than halfway up. Voigt and another breakaway rider, Leipheimer?s teammate Jason McCartney (USA), hung onto this speeding trio and a group of five crested the summit together.
In only four miles on Sierra Road the race changed almost beyond recognition. A group of 12 riders containing the world champion, Team CSC's