Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) lost his first time trial in three years at the Amgen Tour of California’s penultimate seventh stage held in downtown Los Angeles. The defending champion placed fourth, 33 seconds off winner Tony Martin’s (HTC-Columbia) pace in a performance that caused him to further lose time toward the overall classification.
Martin won the 33.6 km time trial in 41:41 minutes, good enough to beat his teammate and race leader Michael Rogers by 22 seconds and US National Time Trial Champion Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) by an additional five seconds. Leipheimer rode in with a fourth place time of 42:14 minutes.
“I can be happy,” said Leipheimer. “When I come to the Tour of California, if I don’t win, I lose and that is a lot of expectations. I can be happy with this time trial.”
This is the first year that Leipheimer has not worn the gold leader’s jersey during the Tour. This year the jersey has changed hands several times since starting on Mark Cavendish’s (HTC-Columbia) shoulders after stage one. Brett Lancaster (Cervelo Test Team) claimed it with his win on stage two before Zabriskie secured it on stage three and finally Rogers’ successful sprint for time bonuses bumped him into the lead on stage five.
Rogers leads the race by nine seconds over Zabriskie, with Leipheimer 25 seconds in arrears with one stage remaining.
“I’m not making excuses but I was hoping for a few percent more in the legs,” Leipheimer said. “Dave and Mick have just been a fraction better than me all week and they proved it today.”
AEG Sports, organiser of the eight-day event, moved the time trial from its traditional hilly course in the Danish town of Solvang to a flat course held in downtown Los Angeles. The course is well-suited to a rider like Zabriskie, who was the odds-on favorite to win the stage.
“I have no regrets, for the way I felt, I pushed as hard as I could,” Leipheimer said. “I didn’t make any mistakes. It was really windy and rough out there. You can argue that maybe it is not the best course for me and personally, I love Solvang a lot more.”
There is one final opportunity for the jersey to change hands in tomorrow’s eighth and final stage, held on a circuit race in Thousand Oaks-Agoura Hills. The 134 km event consists of four laps of a 33 km course that includes a 1,000 feet climb up the Mulholland Highway, located 10 kilometres from the finish line.
“Considering tomorrow it aint over by a long ways,” Leipheimer said. “The Tour of California has been very, very hard and unfortunately amongst the top three there hasn’t been a big selection and it’s been tight the whole week. But the peloton as a whole has been extremely hard and tomorrow won’t be any different.”