Levi Leipheimer all but secured his third straight win in the Tour of California on Friday with victory in the 24km time trial around Solvang.

Leipheimer has lived up to his moniker of race favourite since the start in Sacramento, placing well in the prologue, attacking the peloton alone in to Santa Cruz, and now with a win in against the clock.

It was less than convincing though, the Californian only beat Garmin?s David Zabriskie by eight seconds, but this does give him an overall lead of 36 seconds, and with the team he has behind him there is little chance he is going to be beaten.

?It would take a lot of screwing up on their part,? said Dave Zabriskie when asked what it would take to overhaul Leipheimer. ?With the experience they have, and the strength of their team, and Johan?. They know what they?re doing.?

Perhaps the biggest surprise today was the performance of Lance Armstrong. In his prime the Texan was unbeatable against the clock, with time trials being the bedrock on which he laid the foundation of his seven Tour de France wins. But here he lost one minute sixteen seconds to his team mate, finishing down in 14 place.

Perhaps now he is feeling the effect of the work he has done in his new role of domestique extraordinaire. ?I?m tired,? said Armstrong. ?I haven?t done a time trial for a long time, so it?s a new sensation. I raced as hard as I could. I wanted to be in the top 15, so I?m not unhappy.

?There was no pressure because everything was about Levi. I was more interested in the split times between Levi and Zabriskie. I?ve got nothing to worry about. I did a pretty good test, and I can?t really complain.?

The results sees him slip to sixth place overall. German Jens Voigt has jumped above him after a solid ride today that saw him lose just 30 seconds to Leipheimer and finish fifth.

Leipheimer said afterwards that Armstrong has lost none of his powers, ?I think the Tour Down Under, the Tour of California, he?s using these races to get back in to it,? Leipheimer said. ?I can tell you, he looks very good on a bike, he is strong. If he?s disappointed with his time today then I don?t think he should be.

?The time trial takes practice on how hard to push yourself, it will probably take him a couple of races before he?s back. But I can tell you, in the road stages he?s extremely strong, he?s probably the strongest team mate I have here.?

According to Leipheimer, just having Lance here has helped everyone raise their game. ?To have him around it?s all positive, the riders the staff, everybody is doing their job above and beyond. The team runs to perfection, and no one can let each other down. It?s a great environment.

?Yeah it pushes you to be the best you can and it takes a lot of hard work and suffering but in the end it?s all worth it.?

With Armstrong et al. behind him, it seems that both Zabriskie, and Michael Rogers have all but given up hope of stopping Leipheimer take his third Tour of California. Saturday?s stage from Santa Clarita to Pasedena features one third category climb just before the halfway point followed by a gradual descent to Pasadena where the bunch should complete five laps of the finishing circuit.

Tour of California stage 6, individual time trial ? results

1. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 24.1km in 30-40


2. David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Slipstream 30-48

3. Gustav Larsson (Swe) Saxo Bank 30-57

4. Michael Rogers (Aus) Columbia-Highroad 31-02

5. Jens Voigt (Ger) Saxo Bank 31-10

6. George Hincapie (USA) Columbia-Highroad 31-16

7. Tom Zirbel (USA) Bissell pro cycling 31-19

8. Jason McCartney (USA) Saxo Bank 31-21

9. Stef Clement (Ned) Rabobank 31-23

10. Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Columbia-Highroad 31-31

British

46. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad at 2-28

General classification after stage 6

1. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 24-12-00


2. David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Slipstream at 36 seconds

3. Michael Rogers (Aus) Columbia-Highroad at 46 seconds

4. Jens Voigt (Ger) Saxo Bank at 1-10

5. Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Columbia-Highroad at 1-29

6. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at 1-46

7. Robert Gesink (Ned) at 1-54

8. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana at 1-59

9. Chris Horner (USA) Astana at 2-13

10. Francisco Mancebo (Esp) Rock Racing at 2-15

British

76. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad at 31-58

Tour of California 2009Levi Leipheimer on his way to a third Tour of California victory

Tour of California 2009Mark Cavendish dons his green points leader’s skinsuit

Tour of California 2009David Zabriskie, second on stage six


2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA: LINKS

STAGE REPORTS

Stage five: Two in a row for Cavendish

Stage four: Cavendish battles over hills to wins stage

Stage three: Hushovd sprints home

Stage two: Leipheimer takes the lead

Stage one: Mancebo’s stage one win raises Puerto demons

Prologue: Cancellara Express derails the Armstrong show

NEWS & FEATURES

Cavendish rises to second in list of all-time British pro winners

Armstrong’s time trial bike handed in to police

Boonen set to ride Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne after Tour of California

Cancellara abandons Tour of California

Armstrong’s bike stolen in California

Cavendish poised to take leaders jersey

Tour of California blog

Armstrong and Astana train for Tour of California

Mark Cavendish: Rider Profile

Lance Armstrong: Rider Profile

PHOTOS

Stage five photo gallery

Stage four photo gallery

Stage three photo gallery

Stage two photo gallery

Stage one photo gallery

Prologue photo gallery

Cycling Weekly photo gallery

2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA PREVIEW

2009 Tour of California race preview

Start list: all the riders

Team list: all the squads

2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA STAGES

Saturday, February 14 Prologue details

Sunday, February 15 Stage one details

Monday, February 16 Stage two details

Tuesday, February 17 Stage three details

Wednesday, February 18 Stage four details

Thursday February 19 Stage five details

Friday, February 20 Stage six details

Saturday, February 21 Stage seven details

Sunday, February 22 Stage eight details

EXTERNAL LINKS

Tour of California official website