Leipheimer a dark horse for Missouri time trial

Today's stage to impact worlds participation decision

Levi Leipheimer has not competed since breaking his wrist eight weeks ago at the Tour de France, yet he believes that he can capture the Tour for Missouri’s yellow jersey in Kansas City on Sunday. The time trial specialist describes himself as a dark horse to win the stage 5 time trial held in Sedalia today.

“Of course I’d like to win the overall here,” Leipheimer told Cyclingnews. “But, mainly I’d have to say that it was just about getting back to race condition before the year’s end.”

The event’s time trial has undergone drastic change from the traditionally hilly Branson one that he competed on two years ago to the new 30-kilometre time trial course. “I was here two years ago and now it looks like it’s dead flat this time, which is fine,” Leipheimer said. “Sometimes they are dead flat. I’ve won flat, hilly and uphill time trials so I think I can compete. I’m definitely not an outright favourite and a dark horse is a good way to put it.”

Leipheimer is up against some very stiff competition in riders like Michael Rogers (Columbia-HTC), three-time world time trial champion, and his teammate Marco Pinotti, four-time Italian national time trial champion. Other notable specialist include the current USPro time trial champion Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) and Gustav Larsson (Saxo Bank), who won the silver medal at the Beijing Olympics last summer, one place ahead of Leipheimer.

“You see a lot of the best time triallists in the world are here, a big number,” said Leipheimer. “There’s a lot of wins amongst the best here and people who can compete in the best time trials at the worlds. The one who wins tomorrow has to be a really good time triallist.”

So far the race has seen four sprint finishes from as many stages, meaning the time trial will likely be the deciding factor in who wins the overall title.

How well Leipheimer rides on today’s stage will be the deciding factor as to whether or not he participates with the US National Team at the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Time Trial Championships held in Mendrisio, Switzerland on September 24.

“Yes, I’m going to wait to see how I do and decide about worlds later,” he said. “I think I would have to have a very good time trial to decide to go over to Europe. It has to fit into the season. The problem, like last year for example, is it was so close to the Vuelta that I didn’t have time to recover. The circumstances have to play out correctly.”

Leipheimer withdrew from a fourth place position at the Tour de France following a crash during stage 12, where he broke his wrist. He was hoping the bone would heal in time for the USPro time trial championships held in Greenville, South Carolina last week but the injury was still tender.

“It’s gotten better. The first day [in Missouri] my arm muscles, not just my wrist, were very tight,” he said. “The guys here that are with the medical staff have been great and they’ve been helping me with this stuff called SpiderTech, a pre-cut medical tape. I feel like it’s really helping through my arm and shoulder.”

Doctors gave Leipheimer six weeks as a minimum required healing time for the bone to withstand activity. However Leipheimer chose to err on the side of caution, allowing the healing process a further two weeks just in time for the Tour of Missouri.

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