By Bjorn Haake in Navacerrada
Levi Leipheimer won his second Vuelta a España stage win when he controlled all his rivals in the second time trial, up to the Alto de Navacerrada, and pulled himself to within 46 seconds of toppling fellow Astana rider Alberto Contador's overall lead in the race. But ever the loyal teammate, Leipheimer said that there was no question he could win the race outright. "Alberto performed where he needed to. On the Angliru he showed he was the best."
Leipheimer said team was strong and showed it could handle the pressure. "We have controlled the race from day one very intelligently. Everybody was expecting us to control the race." Having two riders up front is a luxury, but also an obligation.
Leipheimer praised the team for shouldering the added work load of supporting two protected riders. "I am also a leader, which puts more work on the other guys. But that's what we came here for, to show we are the best team in the World."
Despite his co-leadership role, Leipheimer did his fair share of work, especially up to the Angliru when team manager Johan Bruyneel had asked him to support Contador.
His reward was a chance to win the stage on Saturday. "I thought that was possible. The best reference was Alberto. I had his splits – obviously a little delayed as he was riding behind me." That combined with Contador's not so great legs helped Leipheimer secure the stage win. But he never once thought about winning the entire race. "I think I trailed by 1'17. Alberto really deserves this win."
Leipheimer also clarified that there was never a problem with who is number one. In the stage to Fuentes de Invierno, it was clear that Contador would jump. "He had the yellow jersey, he needed those extra bonus seconds for the win."
Leipheimer was playing second fiddle in the Vuelta, but he is now heading to the World Championships with one goal in mind. "I want to win the time trial."