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