Levi Leipheimer (Astana) has pulled on the yellow jersey at the Tour of California after the first mountain stage to San Jose in the centre of Silicon Valley but he knows that David Millar (Slipstream) and Fabian Cancellara (CSC) could stop him winning the race for the second consecutive year.
Leipheimer now leads Fabian Cancellara (CSC) by 20 seconds and Millar by 21 seconds but Slipstream has four riders in the 15 overall contenders left in the race and so could play a tactical game plan. Millar and Zabriskie have a chance against Leipheimer in Friday?s 24km time trial, while Cristian Vande Velde and Thomas Peterson could go in breaks and test the strength of the Astana team.
Millar was tired and dirty after the stage but he was very proud of his own performance and that of his Slipstream team mates.
?I?m really pleased with that ride. What a team? We rode an awesome race,? Millar told Cycling Weekly as he rested on the front of the team car after the stage.
?I honestly wasn?t expecting to be climbing that well in this race, Paris-Nice is my first real goal of the season. It was a tough stage and they went hard as well. You can see how hard I was racing because I was throwing my bike around and even cut my knee.?
?It was a pity to lose Tyler Farrar [withdrew due to a stomach bug] but I?ve moved in the overall standings and we?ve still got a great chance of overall victory. Cancellara is a freak of nature, isn’t he? When I saw him getting back on I thought ?are you joking?’?
?Basically now it?s us against him (Leipheimer). The time trial will be vital but so will the final two hilly stages on Saturday and Sunday.?
CANCELLARA: ?WE?RE GOING TO TRY AND WIN?
Fabian Cancellara smashed his bidon into the ground after the finish, angry that he had lost 20 vital seconds to Leipheimer but refused to admit defeat. He was not designated team leader for CSC here but was incredibly strong on the climbs and is now the biggest threat to Leipheimer.
?In one way I?m happy today and in another I?m angry,? he told Cycling Weekly.
?I didn?t think I?d stay with the best climbers like that. It means I?m on form and getting stronger but it?s hard to compete against Leipheimer because he?s in great shape here.?
?I still think anything is still possible but if you consider how much we worked after the summit of Sierra Road and how many of us there were chasing behind, it means that Leipheimer and Geslink went really, really fast.?
?I don?t know why we didn?t catch them. It was close. I thought we?d catch them but? At one point I got angry and rode even harder but we still didn?t catch them. I did everything I could.?
?I wasn?t expecting to ride for the overall classification at the start of the race. I?ve had a back problem and I had to see a chiropractor and today was the first time I felt as I should. I convinced myself I could stay with the leaders on the first climb and dug deep.?
?I didn?t think I?d do so well and so now I?ve got more faith in myself and I?m more determined. That?s a big help. For sure we?re going to try and win. We never give up at CSC.?
|TOUR OF CALIFORNIA: STAGE REPORTS|
|TOUR OF CALIFORNIA: VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS|
Cancellara and Millar to challenge Leipheimer
Tour of California: photo gallery
Cipollini: “Third here is worth a hundred other victories”
Stage two: Cavendish angry after sprint mix-up
Cancellara angry with Hamilton, Sevilla, Botero protests
Cancellara: “I always have to win prologues”
Wiggins and Millar unhappy with prologue rides
Tour of California: preview