Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer was left almost speechless after his third consecutive victory in the American stage race on Sunday.

“I had to think about ways to articulate,” Leipheimer said after the race had finished. “To win it once was huge, to win it twice I felt like I was a little bit lucky, but now winning it three times, it’s the sweetest thing.”

The American Astana rider also talked about the immense pressure to perform that he felt before the race.

“It’s hard to describe it,” Leipheimer said. “The pressure builds the expectations are higher, you can’t get second place because that’s a failure especially this race because a lot depended on one half hour in Solvang.”

Many of the riders taking part in the race have expressed their amazement at the size and enthusiasm of the crowds lining the race route, and Leipheimer was no exception.

“I had to remind myself it was February in California. It felt like the Alps in July.”

“I’m surprised it was only two million at the [Pasadena] Rose Bowl. It was like Woodstock, it was bigger than Woodstock. The seven kilometre circuit was a tunnel of noise, especially at the start finish.”

“Everyone comes with their best and the crowds really motivated us a lot.”

Tour of California 2009

Of course, Leipheimer had to be asked what it was like having seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong working for him as his right-hand man.

“To have a guy like Lance Armstrong back you up the entire way… it’s a life long dream for me.”

Armstrong himself said that working as domestique for Leipheimer was “good for his life”.

The question, then, is whether Leipheimer will pay back Armstrong in the Texan’s inevitable attempt to win an eighth Tour de France in July. However, Leipheimer played the team game, refusing to assert his allegiance to Armstrong or fellow Astana team leader Alberto Contador during the Tour.

“In July we’ll ride for the strongest rider, if that’s Lance or Alberto or whoever,” Leipheimer tactfully said.


2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA: LINKS

STAGE REPORTS

Stage eight: Leipheimer wins 2009 Tour of California

Stage seven: Nocentini wins in Pasedena

Stage six: Leipheimer wins time trial to cement Tour of California lead

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

Armstrong: Playing domestique is good for my life

Mancebo crashes out of KOM lead

Comment: What’s in a victory salute?

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 eight photo gallery

Stage seven photo gallery

Stage six photo gallery

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