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Leipheimer keeps an eye on Vinokourov

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Levi Leipheimer (Radioshack) takes control on the final climb.

Levi Leipheimer (Radioshack) takes control on the final climb. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich/
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Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) is happy to finish another stage safely

Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) is happy to finish another stage safely (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

Levi Leipheimer's task during stage 7 of the Tour de France was to mark Alexander Vinokourov (Astana). The RadioShack rider, who finished alongside Vinokourov in the lead group of GC contenders, said that the Astana rider was too dangerous to escape without company from someone on Lance Armstrong's Radioshack squad.

"I really had to keep my eye on Vino on the last climb because we can't afford to let him go without one of us and my job is to look after him," said Leipheimer at the finish.

"This is the kind of climb where you expect Vino to attack. He throws caution to the wind and he's got the power to fly up these shallower climbs, but in the end it was just too easy for him to go."

The stage to Station des Rouses saw Sylvain Chavanel take back the yellow jersey he lost in Arenberg, but behind the Quick Step rider, Astana set the pace on the final climb, with RadioShack paying close attention just behind.

As for the both team's respective leaders, Leipheimer was unable to make a call on who looked the strongest after a week of racing. "Contador looks good, Lance looks good, but apart from that everyone seemed to be hurting. Those two look really good though. It's the battle we're expecting," he said.

Leipheimer's form could be crucial if Armstrong is going to challenge for his eighth Tour title. The former podium finisher crashed out of last year's Tour with a broken wrist. After one day of climbing so far in this year's Tour, he was content with his form.

"I felt pretty good. On the fourth climb, I felt like I was melting but then when they accelerated, I thought I felt not bad and in the last part, I felt pretty good and that makes me happy."