Third Stage Race Victory of the Season for Levi Leipheimer
Levi Leipheimer has started in three stage races in 2009 and now has won all three. He secured his overall win in the 23th Tour of the Gila (New Mexico, USA) while teammate Lance Armstrong moved up to second overall in the fifth and final stage. What makes Leipheimer’s victory so special is that he accomplished this with only Lance Armstrong and Chris Horner as his support team throughout the 5-day race. The three riders rode the national event as individuals riders in the Mellow Johnny’s jersey.
Phil Zajicek won the last stage, the Gila Monster Road Race. Lance Armstrong finished second, and Levi Leipheimer third. After the first category climb out of the Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument, only a small group was left in the front. Leipheimer, Armstrong and Horner together with Tom Zirbel, Chris Baldwin, Burke Swindlehurst, Phil Zajicek and Chad Beyer hit the last climb to Pinos Altos, where Zajicek managed to beat the Mellow Johnny’s riders in the final sprint to the line.
After winning the Tours of California and Castilla y León, Levi Leipheimer won his third stage race of the season today. “I tried to lead out Lance for the stage win, but Zajicek apparently was more familiar with this finish,” said Leipheimer after his eight victory of the season. “However we enjoyed ourselves. It was a great week. Let’s move now to Italy. Many people see me as the big favorite. I think all this talk is a little bit overblown. The Italians are super focused on it, and they know the Giro in and out. I will play day-by-day and we will see what happens.”
Lance Armstrong took his first podium placing of the season, coming in 2nd overall. “The people in New Mexico were great. This is a great and a hard race. I am glad we raced here. It is better to start in the Giro having done this race than nothing. I cannot complain. Of course breaking my collarbone has changed my ambitions for the Giro, but I look forward to that race. I can ride – without pressure – in an event that I’ve always wanted to do and I can try to help Levi win.”
Chris Horner, 13 years ago already stage winner in the Tour of the Gila, did a fabulous job the last five days helping Leipheimer to victory. He is ready for the Tour of Italy as well.
Result Stage 5, Gila Monster Road Race (Silver City - Pinos Altos), 170 km/106 mi:
1 Phil Zajicek; 2 Lance Armstrong 0.12; 3 Levi Leipheimer; 4 Chad Beyer 0.24; 5 Chris Horner 0.34; 6 Burke Swindlehurst; 7 Brad White 3.21; 8 Chris Baldwin; 9 Darren Lill 3.30; 10 Florian Stalder
Final overall rankings:
1 Levi Leipheimer; 2 Lance Armstrong 3.01; 3 Phil Zajicek 3.18; 4 Burke Swindlehurst 4.03; 5 Chad Beyer 4.41; 6 Chris Baldwin 6.04; 7 Tom Zirbel 7.06; 8 Chris Horner 7.13; 9 Florian Stalder 7.31; 10 Peter Stetina 7.38