Leipheimer enjoys first Grand Tour lead

Levi Leipheimer (Team Astana) won the Vuelta a España's stage five 42.4km individual time trial in...

Levi Leipheimer (Team Astana) won the Vuelta a España's stage five 42.4km individual time trial in Ciudad Real. His result moved him into the race's maillot oro thereby marking his first ever Grand Tour leader's jersey. It was Leipheimer's seventh win of the 2008 season.

Leipheimer was followed by Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) in second at 12 seconds, Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) in third at 33 seconds and team-mate Alberto Contador in fourth.

"I've been feeling very strong for the last couple of weeks, since the Olympics of course," said Leipheimer, who finished third overall in the 2001 Spanish Grand Tour.

"We did a race in Madrid, which I won. The first days of the Vuelta I felt really good, and I had a lot of confidence going into today.

"However, it was very difficult today. The first 20 kilometers had a headwind, but I conserved enough energy, allowing me to go faster in the end. This is another big highlight for me and this team. It's always an honor to win a stage in a Grand Tour plus wear the leader's jersey."

Although he is now wearing gold, Leipheimer acknowledged his team-mate Contador remains the Astana team leader.

"In this Vuelta we have many mountains to come," he said. "Personally, I believe Alberto is the best climber in the world. He has something that nobody else has - he can accelerate in the mountains. He can follow the best riders and I think Alberto will continue to get better as the Vuelta continues." Contador won the Giro D'Italia in May, but sat out the Tour de France, along with the rest of his team, which was not invited.

"For me, I won a stage, I wear the leader's jersey ... It's very nice for me," said Leipheimer, "but I think Alberto is the strongest rider on this team." Contador sits in fifth place in the GC after his fourth place finish in Wednesday's stage five. The Spaniard reported himself to be feeling well despite a hematoma on his left knee.

"Levi deserved this victory and I congratulate him," said Contador. "This only strengthens the options for Team Astana, because it is always better to have two candidates than one."

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of stage five of the Vuelta a España.

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