By Gregor Brown in Varese
Levi Leipheimer closed out the World Championships and his 2008 season and with a fourth place in the time trial Thursday. The Olympic bronze medallist finished 1:05 back on winner Bert Grabsch of Germany and 13 seconds back on USA teammate David Zabriskie on the 43.7-kilometre course in Varese, Italy.
"I felt strong. After the Vuelta [a España] I have good condition. I was getting the time checks and I was really surprised," said Leipheimer to Cyclingnews. He confirmed he will not do the men's road race and is not scheduled to race for the reminder of 2008.
Leipheimer came off an impressive pre-Worlds run with third in Beijing and wins in both of the Vuelta's time trials. He bettered Sweden's Gustav Erik Larsson by four-tenths of a second, but could not touch the times of Grabsch, Svein Tuft and Zabriskie.
"I came straight here and took it easy for two days. I did a couple of intervals yesterday to make sure I was open. Looking back, between the three days of the Vuelta and here, it is just not enough to get that freshness," Leipheimer stated.
Leipheimer rides for Johan Bruyneel's Team Astana during the year, the same team that welcomes Lance Armstrong back into the sport for 2009. For most of September, he dedicated himself helping teammate Alberto Contador win the Vuelta. During the three-week stage race took his opportunities with wins in the Ciudad Real and Alto de Navacerrada time trials on his way to second overall.
Northern Italy did not provide the same winning setting as Spain, however. The early time check had Leipheimer in 16th spot. He improved, as he typically does through a time trial, to fifth best at the last check.
"It is important to be consistent in all the time trials you do," he said of the time checks he received in his earpiece. "You need the truth. I kept hoping that Johan [Bruyneel] would say halfway through... I thought he was pushing me by telling me I was behind. He was always telling me I was one second behind [Michael] Rogers, Dave Zabriskie, and I kept hoping he would switch it and say 'no, no, you were ahead and I was just pushing you.'"
He is satisfied with his performance and proud to see two North Americans on the podium of the World Championships. He noted Grabsch's ability over fast parcours and preference for pushing big gears.
"Tuft was a bit of a surprise, I know he is strong," he added. "I think he made a break through and that is great to see."