Defending Champion Levi Leipheimer Wins Amgen Tour of California for Third Consecutive Year
Schleck wins final stage; Zabriskie takes second overall, Rogers third.
one of the most difficult stages of the 2009 race, the 156 kilometer/96.8-mile route from Rancho Bernardo to Escondido included one sprint and four King of the Mountain (KOM) climbs, including the ‘above categorization’ ascent of Palomar Mountain, the highest point ever reached in the Amgen Tour of California at 5,123 feet. The ascent unfolded over 11.7 miles and included 21 switchbacks at an average gradient of seven percent.
The Queen stage of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California began with an early breakaway of nine riders, which was split up a half hour later. Soon after, a second breakaway formed, which included Schleck and inaugural Amgen Tour of California winner Floyd Landis (USA) of Ouch Presented by Maxxis. Chased and eventually caught by the top-three riders in the general classification, Leipheimer, Rogers and Zabriskie, the breakaway included most of the top riders in the peloton.
Lined with fans, some of which had camped out for two nights to secure their spot to watch the cyclists compete in the final day of the race, Mount Palomar made the final stage of the race an extremely challenging course. Schleck opened up a gap on the descent, but was then joined by three additional riders to make a group of four. With Lance Armstrong (USA) of Astana setting a fast pace at the front of the field, the gap began to close. After riding in the breakaway for most of the day, Schleck battled Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) of Liquigas up to the finish line to take the final stage with the roar of cheering fans in Escondido in the background.
“The riding was furious today and I said, ‘I’m just going to go for it again’,” said Schleck. “On Palomar, that is where I attacked and got up to Andy (Schleck), and then he set a really hard pace. Really, for a guy like me, it took a big effort today for sure.”
Rogers stated that “I’m stoked to have finished third overall in this race. The caliber of the field is pretty much like the Tour de France; there are only a few teams missing. Everyone is here. Looking back at the time trial in Solvang, you’ve got five or six of the world’s best time trialists. It was a star-studded field for sure, so I’m very happy with my position.”
Zabriskie told Roadcycling.com that “Today’s stage included a lot of hills. I’ve done Palomar before, but it’s always a little easier when you’re not under pressure. The crowds were impressive. They were tripping over each other at the top and that made me a bit nervous, so I just kept my head up. But seriously, it was really nice to have them all along the course cheering. It looked like they were having a good time.”
Today’s stage brought a close to the competition for the Amgen Tour of California jerseys. The Amgen Leader Jersey was awarded to Leipheimer for the third consecutive year. In addition to winning the final stage of the race, Schleck claimed Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous