Defending Champion Levi Leipheimer Wins Amgen Tour of California for Third Consecutive Year
Schleck wins final stage; Zabriskie takes second overall, Rogers third.
After nine challenging and epic days of cycling through more than 750-miles of scenic California roads, and a thrilling fight to the finish, Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team Astana was crowned champion of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California, solidifying a three-peat for the California resident. With a week-long total time of 31 hours, 28 minutes and 21 seconds, Leipheimer accepted the highly coveted title of race champion in front of massive cheering crowds in Escondido, which brought the race total to 2 million fans along the race route from Sacramento to Escondido. In a nine-day battle against the best field ever assembled to compete in the United States, which included Tour de France winners, Olympic medalists and World Champions, Frank Schleck (LUX) of Team Saxo Bank claimed the Stage 8 win.
“I’ve been trying to think about how to articulate this and it’s tough,” said Leipheimer. “To win it once, that was huge. To win it twice, that was almost a little bit of a surprise and almost felt like luck. But now, to have won the Amgen Tour of California three times, it’s the sweetest victory of all. I think we proved that we were the best team in the race. There is no question about that. It’s hard to describe, but to keep a streak like that going is difficult. I told Lance (Armstrong) that I don’t know how he won the Tour de France seven times in a row, because the pressure builds with each win. The expectations are higher. I think we proved that we were the best team in the race. There is no question about that."
On becomming a team leader, Leipheimer told Roadcycling.com that "It has been a long, hard learning process to become the best that I can be and become a team leader. When the Amgen Tour of California came about in 2006, I knew I had evolved into a rider that could win this race. I have always been motivated for this race. This year, it was awesome because the team was so strong that we didn’t even need a lot of direction. Everyone is so experienced that we all know what each other are thinking. The riders can see each other and know when to take it easy or when we need to go. It has been a long, hard road to get to this point. I’ve trained really hard and when I was pushing myself and suffering, I dreamt of moments like the climb on Bonny Doon where it’s a long way to the finish, the conditions are horrendous, but at the spur of the moment, you feel inspired and great and you just go for it. You know that you’re fully committed to pulling it off and grabbing the yellow jersey, and to have Lance working for you the entire way, it’s like a life-long dream for me."
David Zabriskie (USA) of Team Garmin-Slipstream finished in second place overall at 36 seconds behind Leipheimer, and Michael Rogers (AUS) of Team Columbia-Highroad finished third at 45 seconds behind.