Posted by Editoress on 02/22/08
Tour of California
Levi Leipheimer (Astana) confirmed that he is the strongest man in the Amgen Tour of California today when he dominated the time trial in Solvang, beating possibly the best field of time trialers every to race a North American stage race. David Millar (Slipstream) came closest to Leipheimer, but was still 29 seconds down for the 24 kilometre race, followed by his team mate Christian Vandevelde at 45 seconds. Dominique Rollin (Toyota United), racing in the green jersey of Points leader finished just over four minutes back, in 69th place. Leipheimer now leads Millar by 49 seconds with two stages remaining.
Early threats of rain weren't realized, to everyone's relief, although gusty winds of 30 to 40 kilometres blew the riders around. Bradley Wiggins (High Road) set the early fast time, but eventually finished 11th as the final ten riders to start got faster and faster.
"I had my doubts before the start," admitted Leipheimer "but I just went out to do the best I could. I told myself go out there, do your best and fight. Astana has something to prove."
The one rider who did not perform up to expectation was world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara (CSC), who won the Prologue time trial, and amazed the peloton by riding with the leaders on the very hilly third stage. "He blew everyone away two days ago," commented Leipheimer "but you pay for that; we are not machines. Today was not a normal Fabian Cancellara."
Cancellara said as much himself: 'I think today was a statement about my actual fitness. I did a very good stage to San José and I think I paid the price today. I came here to help my team and win a stage , but my role was changed suddenly when I was second in the GC. It was evident today Levi's a better rider now."
Rollin was pleased with is ride, and his recovery from yesterday's big effort. "I felt pretty good, and even though I was riding at 80% I still only lost four minutes."
He also said that riding in the Points jersey made a difference. "Definitely. The people are cheering you more and it makes you faster."
Tomorrow is expected to be another day for the sprinters. The race heads inland from Santa Barbara to end up at Santa Clarita north of Los Angeles after 170 kilometres. There are four KoMs, but three are Category 4 and one Category 3. There are also two intermediate sprints, and we can expect a battle between Rollin and CSC's JJ Haedo, who is 10 points back in the fight for the Green Jersey.
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