Levi Leipheimer was one of the few overall contenders who emerged from yesterday's crash-affected stage to Metz without a scratch and is now looking forward to the battle for the Tour de France's overall title getting fully under way at the La Planche des Belles Filles summit finish on Saturday.
"It's definitely going to become clear who's strong and who the favourites are. It's simple math really. If someone gets dropped big-time then they are simply not going to be in it," said the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team leader.
Leipheimer said he feels that his form is good, but pointed out that it is difficult to make predictions heading into the mountains for the first time. "I feel good but we haven't really been put to the test," he said.
He acknowledged that fortune has gone his way so far in the Tour. "Knock on wood, I've been very lucky in this Tour. I've been close to five or six crashes but I've missed them, so I'm thankful for that. It was important that we had the whole team on the front at the right moment so we're still in it.
"I stayed up front ahead of the crash and someone said there was only 40 or 50 guys left. I don't know what happened. One moment it got windy, it got fast. It's the Tour de France. If you're at the front you're OK. But everyone's so strong that the speed can snap the peloton and there's no coming back from it," he said.
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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