Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) extended his overall race lead in the Tour of California on Friday after dominating the key 14.5-mile time trial in Solvang, north of Los Angeles.
Starting last as raced leader, the little American battled against a strong head wind on the first part of the course and then used his better climbing ability to beat Jens Voigt (CSC) by 18 seconds. Leipheimer?s team mate Jason McCartney was third at 25 seconds as Discovery Channel and CSC dominated, taking the first nine places on the stage.
Only Leipheimer and Voigt went under the 30-minute barrier, with the American recording 29-40 and Voigt setting 29-58. Leipheimer now leads the German in the week-long race by 21 seconds, with McCartney third at 54 seconds and Bobby Julich (CSC) fourth at 1-06. With only a rolling stage to Santa Clarita on Saturday and the final criterium stage on Sunday, Leipheimer looks to have overall victory in the bag.
Leipheimer fought with Voigt in the 2006 Tour of Germany and jokingly boasted to his rival after today’s time trial saying, ?this is my turf? before revealing the emotions and pressure of leading his home race.
?That was one of my best time trials ever. It was really windy. Normally it was not my thing but all week I?ve been telling myself ?forget about the negative? and it was working,? he said in an emotional voice.
?The first half of the course was either a cross or direct headwind. It was hard mentally not going fast but that?s were the time difference was made and on the hill. I tried to stay as one with bike and keep the pressure on. My major motivation beside wanting to win was that I didn?t want to go the dinner table and look my team mates in eye and say I couldn?t defend the lead after all the work they?d done. That kept me going and I was able to push harder than normal. This time trial was a personal great achievement.?
British riders Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) and Russell Downing both took it steady in the time trial. Downing was 85th at 3-58 and Wegelius was 119th at 5-23.
Saturday?s 105-mile sixth stage is from the beach resort of Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita, just north of Los Angeles. The Tour of California finishes on Sunday with a circuit stage in Long Beach.
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 29.40
2 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 0.18
3 Jason McCartney (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.25
4 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 0.37
5 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.40
6 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 0.42
7 Christian Vandevelde (USA) Team CSC 0.57
8 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team CSC 1.00
9 Ivan Basso (Ita) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 1.03
10 Bram De Groot (Ned) Rabobank