Levi Leipheimer is pleased that race organizers of the Amgen Tour of California have granted his hometown of Santa Rosa the stage one start and finish line in 2012. The three-time winner believes the seventh edition of the race has the potential to be the toughest route yet and he is targeting a fourth overall title during the eight day event scheduled from May 13-20.
“It is definitely a target for me to try and win the race again,” Leipheimer told Cyclingnews. “This is a race that I want to win every year. I’ve won it three times, it starts in my home town and it is the first target of the season for me.”
Race organizers recently announced the 13 host cities to include Santa Rosa, San Francisco to Santa Cruz County, San Jose to Livermore, Sonora to Clovis, Bakersfield, Palmdale to Big Bear Lake, Ontario to Mt. Baldy and Los Angeles.
“I think they've made a great route,” Leipheimer said. “They hit the Bay Area, they need to get to southern California, and Los Angeles is very important. I think it is logistically very hard for the organizers to get everything they want and satisfy everyone, it is just not possible. I think it is as good of a course as any. Until we know the details of the routes it is hard to say whether this is the hardest edition, but I think it has the potential to be the toughest edition yet.”
Santa Rosa has been a participating city of the Tour of California in every edition with the exception of 2011. Leipheimer acknowledged the effort he invested in helping to bring the race back to his hometown along with the importance of garnering both the start and the finish of stage one.
“We get the whole stage,” Leipheimer said. “The route is not final yet, but I think we can count on it having a downtown start and finish line. It is really important for Santa Rosa and for myself.”
Leipheimer won the Amgen Tour of California on three occasion from 2007-09 and wore the leader’s jersey in Santa Rosa during the 2006 and 2007 editions. Although he would like to wear the leader’s jersey in his hometown again, he believes that the chances are unlikely. “It is a nice feeling to have the yellow jersey in Santa Rosa,” Leipheimer said. “I have had that before, but I doubt that the stage will be the kind of stage where I would have that possibility next year.”
Race organizers replaced the individual time trial in Solvang with a new location in Bakersfield for stage five. Leipheimer won the time trial during all three of his overall titles. He believes that the new route could offer terrain challenging enough to make the time trial one of the more decisive stages in hunt for the overall classification.
“I have an affinity for Solvang, obviously, but I’m looking forward to what they do to the course in Bakersfield,” Leipheimer said. “I know that there is a lot of elevation there for a time trial. We finished there two years ago and the finishing circuit was on the bluff. My guess is that they will incorporate that into the time trial. A lot of people will come out because Bakersfield is a big city.”
Stages six and seven will host the mountaintop finishes used in the previous two editions: Big Bear Lake, won by Peter Sagan in 2010, and Mt Baldy, won by Leipheimer this year. Although the ascent to Big Bear Lake left the pure climbers with something to be desired, Leipheimer believes that next year it will create an element of fatigue in the climbers legs prior to the more decisive climb up Mt Baldy the next day.
“There are three decisive stages in a row,” Leipheimer said. “Big Bear won’t be as decisive as Baldy, that is obvious, a lot of the climbing is in the last part of the stage and the pitches on the climbs are not as steep. It doesn’t really break up the favourites but the stage is hard on the peloton as a whole. It is definitely a hard stage and will take it out of your legs. It will make the next stage on Baldy more decisive that it was this year.”