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
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
76. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad at 31-58
Levi Leipheimer on his way to a third Tour of California victory
Mark Cavendish dons his green points leader’s skinsuit
David Zabriskie, second on stage six
2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA: LINKS
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
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
Tour of California official website