Levi Leipheimer’s (RadioShack) recent the third place at the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol is an indication that he is on schedule to target a fourth win at the Amgen Tour of California held from May 15-22.
The California resident believes that the RadioShack team that will be selected for the marquee event will be strong enough to fight for the golden leader’s jersey. “I think our team will be strong no matter what, and we will try our best to win,” said Leipheimer.
RadioShack scored an early season victory in the Spanish stage race, with Markel Irizar Aranburu winning by a mere one second ahead of Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and two seconds ahead of Leipheimer.
Leipheimer is no stranger to the international podium having won the Deutschland Tour and the Criterium du Dauphine Libere along with podium places at both the Vuelta a Espana and the Tour de France. However, he ranks his three Amgen Tour of California victories as his biggest career achievements.
“Dauphine has a lot of history and a richer history than the Tour of California,” Leipheimer said. “A lot of champions have won the Dauphine. To have been able to win that race might statistically ranks higher than the Tour of California. However, winning the Tour of California three times has defined me more than any other result than I have ever had.”
Leipheimer is gearing up for arguably one of the toughest ever editions of the Amgen Tour of California. This year’s race has two mountain top finishes: on stage four up Sierra Road and on stage seven up the notorious Mount Baldy, a 26-mile ascent located on the outskirts of Los Angeles.
“First and foremost the Amgen Tour of California is the biggest stage race in America and it had to have a mountaintop finish,” said Leipheimer who has pushed for a mountaintop finish as epic as Mount Baldy.
“It adds a critical element to a race as big as the Amgen Tour of California that wants to attract a Tour de France calibre field. It has been a long time coming.”
Armstrong’s presence at the Amgen Tour of California in 2009 and 2010 spurred record number of crowds along with huge national and international media attention. Leipheimer believes it has been one of the fastest growing professional cycling venues in the history of the sport and envisions its continued growth for years to come.
“I think I’ve said all along, even before we had the first edition, that it would become very popular, very quickly. If you saw the spectators in the first year it was unprecedented. It has grown at a steady pace since then as well.”
RadioShack has yet to announce its official eight-man roster but it will not include seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who recently retired from professional bike racing for a second time.
However Leipheimer will be in the team and racing for a fourth overall victory.