The Amgen Tour of California may be currently led by Peter Sagan, but it's another Slovakian who could well claim the final overall victory when the race hits Los Angeles: Peter Velits. The Omega Pharma-Quickstep rider has stood atop the podium in the Vuelta a Espana, and coming off a solid block of training following the early season races, he's showing good form in California.
On stage 2 to Aptos, Velits came across in 10th place in the sprint, and after three stages currently sits in 12th place overall in a big group of riders who are 30 seconds behind Sagan's lead.
Yet even though he is in a good position and riding strong, Velits is still confident that his team captain Levi Leipheimer will find his form and be able to contend for his fourth Amgen Tour of California title.
"I still believe that Levi can get into shape during the first stages, and the most important stages are going to be time trial and Mt. Baldy.," he explained. "By that time I hope he's going to be alright and I'm going to help him. If he's not alright then of course I'll try my best to get a result, but I believe he's going to be good."
Leipheimer delighted his hometown fans by taking the start in Santa Rosa, and despite putting in only two weeks of training and having five weeks to heal his broken fibula he has backed up his teammate's confidence by sticking with the front group and not losing any time.
Yet Velits told Cyclingnews that Leipheimer gave him the green light to go for his own result.
"Levi said to me 'do your own ride', but we'll see," he said cautiously. "There is still one more day before the time trial. For now we will both ride for the general classification."
Velits has been in the USA for several weeks prior to the race, training at altitude in Boulder, Colorado. "It was perfect for really high quality training. But the thing is, my last race was the Tour of the Basque Country more than a month ago, and I am still missing a little racing speed. I haven't felt very fresh at the end of the stages as I normally would, but I am happy with how I feel on the climbs."