Levi Leipheimer Wins Tour of California Individual Time Trial
With only two stages left defending champion Leipheimer looks set to win the Tour of California for the third time.
Fans lined up ten deep in some places along the 24.1 kilometer individual time trial route in Solvang to welcome world-class cyclists from 17 professional teams for the critical Stage 6 individual time trial of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California. After completing the longest day of the race yesterday, the riders were faced with a course that was dominated by Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team Astana for the third consecutive year. Besting four-time U.S. National Individual Time Trial Champion David Zabriskie (USA) of Team Garmin-Slipstream by eight seconds, Leipheimer further built on his overall lead in the 2009 race to 36 seconds and will wear the Amgen Leader Jersey going into Stage 7 tomorrow.
Moving into second and third overall were Zabriskie and three-time individual time trial world champion Michael Rogers (AUS) of Team Columbia-Highroad, respectively.
“This is the fourth year for the Amgen Tour of California and every year this stage is important,” said Leipheimer. “The overall race this year has been tougher. We’ve had one more day before the time trial and we’ve had some bad weather; the race is split up this year. Of course we have two hard days to come, but today has made the biggest difference.”
“I think I was happy with my ride today. It was a well balanced course. It was flat, fast, there were uphills and downhills, it was a good all-around circuit. My hat goes off to Levi, Dave and everyone really, because it’s a tough tour. I think we’re all looking forward to Sunday. I think the race is not over until Sunday. You’ve got some tough mountains coming up. I’m sure it’s going to be tough. I think maybe the general classification is starting to open up a little bit more, but anything can happen,” Michael Rogers told Roadcycling.com.
Rogers added that “There are some hard climbs coming. I haven’t been over the last two stages, but I have a few teammates that have been over the course, so I’m sure they’ll keep me well informed. With the experience that Levi and his team have, it is going to be hard to do something, but we never say never. We are just going to take each stage as it comes. We’re always on the lookout to do something, so if the opportunity arises, we’ll do it.”
With the start and finish lines located only one block apart, the individual time trial provided fans with an ideal opportunity to watch riders both start and finish the race. The route showcased the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley, winding through quaint towns, vineyards, farms, and one short, but steep, climb up Ballard Canyon. The short, flat and fast time trial created a challenging test for the riders in a decisive day cycling.
Racing on a 15-mile course, Leipheimer rolled out of the start gate with confidence. Coming off a demanding and challenging stage on Thursday, most of the cyclists struggled to beat the 30-minute barrier. Of the early riders, Gustav Larsson (SWE) of Team Saxo Bank posted 30:57, which was only good enough