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.”
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
NEWS & FEATURES
2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA PREVIEW
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