Leipheimer optimistic after seeing early California profiles

Time trial key to title defence for RadioShack rider

After seeing the profiles for the first two stages of the Amgen Tour of California, three-time winner and defending champion Levi Leipheimer is ready to do battle but revealed that the race “will be a war” with the event set to have its most competitive field in its five-year history.

Leipheimer will run reconnaissance of each stage in the lead up to the race. “I don’t have a crystal ball so it’s hard for me to tell that much from the profiles,” he told Cyclingnews. “I’m optimistic though. The three times I’ve won it’s been because of the time trial and I don’t think this year is going to be any different. I think the time trial is the most important day.”

As for the first two stages, the American labeled them as ideal for the sprinters, although the second stage to his hometown of Santa Rosa could provide stiffer competition. “The first stage for sure looks good for a sprint and there are a few others that could go that way too,” he said. “Of course I know the stage to Santa Rosa really well and the climb is some way from the finish so you could have 50 guys finishing all together. I think the GC is going to come down to two days, Big Bear and the time trial.”

“But if you look at the stage to Big Bear on the map I don’t know how hard it is,” he added. “It doesn’t look all that hard but profiles can be deceiving.”

While the race’s remaining six stage routes are still to be revealed, Leipheimer knows that the Tour of California will be harder to win than ever before. “It’s going to be more competitive,” he said. “It gets more and more competitive each year. The time trial is going to be in the city so it could be really technical but I won’t know until I get there.”

RadioShack’s Leipheimer begins his 2010 road season at the Tour of Algarve later this month.

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