Jens Voigt gave CSC their second consecutive stage victory at the Tour of California on Wednesday, beating race leader Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) at the end of the hilly third stage to San Jose.
Voigt was part of the early break of 17 riders that opened a five-minute gap in the hills west of the San Francisco Bay area. He then stayed with the Leipheimer and the leaders over the top of the final climb and on the decent before winning the sprint. Chris Horner (Predictor) finished third in the same time, Holland?s Robert Gesink (Rabobank) was fourth at four seconds and world champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) was fifth.
Voigt took a ten-second time-bonus but Leipheimer still leads the race by three seconds. Australia?s Rory Sutherland (Healthnet) is third overall at 15 seconds.
?There?s never such thing as an easy race and we went hard today,? Voigt said after his win.
?We didn?t plan it like that but I followed the moves and got the right one. When we got a gap with 17 riders it was good because only one team, Discovery Channel was working behind. We got one minute and then it went up to five. I thought we could make it to the finish but they came back fast and then it was only 1-20 at bottom of climb, so I knew I needed to survive steep bit. They caught me at 2km from the top and so it was hard to hang on because I?d invested a lot before. Levi was strong and I gave it all to hang on and then saved my legs for the sprint. I thought I had a fair chance of winning the stage and I was a bit lucky.?
Voigt revealed he is riding well but was hesitant about being able to beat Leipheimer in Friday?s time trial and win overall.
?It?s not over until the fat lady sings but Levi?s got a fair chance and is riding sharp and is very motivated,? he said.
?It?s difficult to say what will happen in the time trial because it?s the first race of the season. I could win by minute or lose by two minutes. Saying that we had secret time trial training at our training camp and I was second fastest over about five kilometres and was only a few seconds behind Fabian Cancellara.?
Sportingly Voigt refused to admit he was disadvantaged by the commissaire?s decision to give Leipheimer the same time as the leaders at the end of Monday?s stage to Santa Rosa when the American was involved in a crash.
Levi Leipheimer was happy to keep the race lead but was also cautious about saying that he was closer to overall victory.
?I would have liked to have gotten to the finish with a minute but the group almost caught us. That doesn?t make me feel secure,? he said.
?Jens can time trial pretty well. I?m a long ways from overall victory but I?m going to give it everything in the time trial and hope I have a good day.?
ARMSTRONG CHEERS FROM TEAM CAR
Levi was pleased to have kept the race leader?s jersey in front of former team mate and leader Lance Armstrong who was riding in the Discovery Channel team car.
?To have the seven time Tour de France winner getting excited and showing emotion was special,? he said.
?He knew it was a real battle he was 100% behind us, cheering us on and encouraging us on radio. That made us dig that extra bit.?
Thursday?s 132.6-mile fourth stage is along the breathtaking Pacific Highway overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is not particularly hilly butt could be a tough day in the saddle if there are strong side winds.
1 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 94 miles in 3.43.44
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
3 Christopher Horner (USA) Predictor-Lotto
4 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 0.04
5 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step
6 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team CSC
7 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Liquigas
8 Dimitri Fofonov (Kaz) Credit Agricole
9 Bram De Groot (Ned) Rabobank
10 Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team