By Kirsten Robbins in Solvang, California
The Tour of California heads into the stage six time trial held in Solvang on Friday, and those 24 kilometres are arguably the most decisive in the race. The top four riders on general classification are separated by only 30 seconds, so the time trial is expected to create some significant time gaps. The question remains, however: is there anyone who can beat Leipheimer in the time trial that he has dominated for two consecutive years?
Leipheimer is the reigning Tour of California champion, but hot on his heels are triple time trial world champ Michael Rogers (Columbia-Highroad) and David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream), who won the US National time trial crown last year.
Leipheimer's teammate Lance Armstrong has also proven to be in great form this week, having finished in the top 10 for the prologue. Chasing these four is a fleet of quality riders, including Columbia-Highroad's Thomas Lövkvist and George Hincapie, Garmin-Slipstream's Christian Vande Velde, Tom Danielson and Svein Tuft, Rock Racing's Oscar Sevilla and Enrique Gutierrez, Team Saxo Bank's Jens Voigt, Jason McCartney and Fränk Schleck, Liquigas' Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali.
The time trial is once again held on the well-known out-and-back course through the Santa Ynez Valley. Though short by most standards, the steep climb up Ballard Canyon, combined with a technical descent, will separate the times. The quaint Danish town of Solvang hosts some of the ProTour teams annually for training camps, so riders vying for the overall crown have previewed the course multiple times and analysed every kilometre.
Read more about Leipheimer's main rivals.