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Race leader Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) defended his yellow jersey on the penultimate stage.
Hired to bolster stage racing potential
Levi Leipheimer explained that his move to Omega Pharma - Quick-Step is part of an evolution within the team but that his arrival, along with that of several others will not disrupt the team’s Classics ambitions.
The Belgian team has been one of the busiest in the transfer market this year. Along with Leipheimer it has brought in a raft of stage racers and time trialists, including Tony Martin, Peter Velits, Martin Velits, Stijn Vandenbergh, Frantisek Rabon, Bert Grabsch, and Matthew Brammeier. It has also appointed Brian Holm as a team director.
Part of the team's aggression in the market was based upon a lack of UCI WorldTour points but also the fact that its Classics stars, including Tom Boonen, have failed to deliver in recent years. With a cash injection guaranteed from new investors, team boss Patrick Lefevere was able to sign up a number of riders. The team's roster is now complete and stands at 30 riders for next year.
Omega Pharma - Quick Step's move into the realms of stage racing will see Leipheimer lead in Grand Tours as well as week-long stage races – an area he has succeeded in this year, winning three events, including the Tour de Suisse.
“This is historically a world-class Classics team,” Leipheimer said. “It will always have that strong Classics squad, that’s just in its DNA. But with a lot of these new riders and staff coming on and bringing a new-school, scientific, stage-race program, that’s more my thing. We are not coming in to overhaul the team. We’re building a stage race presence to complement the Classics program.”
“When you have that much TT strength – and I’ve seen this with many years as a rider for Discovery, Astana and RadioShack – it really brings up the whole level of the team,” Leipheimer said. “It comes from being in that environment. Being on the team with the world champion and seeing his level of meticulous preparation — everybody sees that and feeds off of it, especially the younger riders.”
The American is no stranger to riding for foreign squads. He rode for Rabobank for three seasons, and for Gerolsteiner and Astana for two years each. The move brings to an end his relationship with Johan Bruyneel, who has managed the American for several phases of his career.
Regarding his former squad, Leipheimer offered a “special thanks to Team RadioShack for its support and enthusiasm during two of my most successful seasons.”