Strong ride puts O'Neill in 5th

Nathan O'Neill (Health Net Presented by Maxxis) finished fifth in the time trial stage of the Tour...

Nathan O'Neill (Health Net Presented by Maxxis) finished fifth in the time trial stage of the Tour of California, 56 seconds behind winner Floyd Landis (Phonak). The ride also elevated him from 18th to 5th overall. "I knew it would be decisive for the overall classification," said O'Neill, who is a seven-time and current Australian national time trial champion

"I had a pretty good ride today," O'Neill continued. "Given the level of talent here, it was about where I expected to be. It would've been a bit of a surprise to do better, but a disappointment to come in farther down. I'm never satisfied with fifth place, but taking everything into consideration, it was good.

"The wind was definitely a factor. The first part of the course was about power. With a block headwind for the last 12 km, the last part was about aerodynamics. I think my time in the wind tunnel in January helped out a bit today. It showed me some things I suspected and gave me more evidence of some small things that I needed to change. But those small changes, with a second here, a second there, add up after a while."

With Levi Leipheimer dropping down to 6th overall after his 9th place finish in the ITT, he now sits only two seconds behind O'Neill on GC. "I'm sure he'd like to finish top-five in his home state tour," O'Neill said. "It's definitely going to be on tomorrow. CSC will try to light it up, but I expect Phonak to take a lot of responsibility with Floyd in the lead. The race isn't over, but it's definitely getting narrowed down."

Health Net's guest rider, Scott Thornton of the San Jose Sharks, did a respectable 48 minutes for the course, 12 minutes behind the winning time. "I don't think my time is going to hold up for too long," he said afterward.

"I didn't get much of a warm-up in, so that first hill on Bailey Road was a bit tough," he said. "It took me until the last stretch coming up Santa Teresa to really get my legs cleared out and start feeling good."

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