Levi Leipheimer (Astana) set up overall victory in the Tour of California on Friday by storming to victory in the key 24km Solvang time trial.
Two tough stages remain before the end of the week long race but Leipheimer now leads David Millar (Slipstream) by 49 seconds and Christian Vandevelde (Slipstream) by 1-08.
Tucked in his low aero position, Leipheimer fought into the headwind on the first part of the course and then powered up the short climb and blasted to the finish. He recorded a time of 30-46, beating Millar by 29 seconds and Vandevelde by 45 seconds. World time trial champion Fabian Cancellara (CSC) had been favourite to win the time trial and perhaps even take the race lead from Leipheimer but he had a terrible day. He was fifth in the time trial, a massive 1-05 behind Leipheimer and slipped to fourth overall at 1-18.
Britain?s Bradley Wiggins (High Road) was the early leader after setting a time of 32-16 but he was not happy with his performance and eventually finished 11th, 1-30 behind Leipheimer.
Leipheimer and his Astana team now have to defend the race lead, and most of all control the Slipstream team in Saturday?s 169km fifth stage from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita and then Sunday?s 150km seventh stage from Santa Clarita to Pasadena. Both stages include some mid-race climbs but Slipstream will have to first isolate Leipheimer if they want attack him.
Leipheimer made it clear he and his team were ready for a fight.
?There are two days hard left and my team mates have done a lot of hard work but this is a step in the right direction. I?m very happy. Whether I?m fist or last, we came here to fight and we?ve done that,? he said immediately after the time trial.
?To be honest I was a little scared of Cancellara. I?m really surprised, I didn?t expect such a strong day today but I?ve got to thank my team mates at Astana. They?re hard men and this is for Astana. I told myself: ?I know the pressure?s on me but all I can do is my best. I had a lot of doubts but I told myself to just do my best. If I?m ugly on the bike I?m going to fight as hard as I can because there?s a lot riding on this victory.?
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 30.47
2 David Millar (GBr) Slipstream 0.29
3 Christian Vandevelde (USA) Slipstream 0.45
4 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Team CSC 0.57
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 1.05
6 David Zabriskie (USA) Slipstream 1.15
7 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana 1.19
8 Tom Zirbel (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling 1.24
9 Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling 1.25
10 Kim Kirchen (Lux) High Road 1.28
11 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) High Road 1.29
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 21.14.52
2 David Millar (GBr) Slipstream 0.49
3 Christian Vandevelde (USA) Slipstream 1.08
4 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 1.18
5 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Team CSC 1.19
6 David Zabriskie (USA) Slipstream 1.36
7 Christopher Horner (USA) Astana 2.07
8 Jurgen Vandewalle (Bel) Quick Step 2.11
9 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 2.18
10 Alexandre Moos (Swi) BMC Racing Team 2.27
|TOUR OF CALIFORNIA: STAGE REPORTS|
Stage five: Leipheimer sets up victory
Stage four: wind and rain lash race
Stage three: Leipheimer takes the lead
Stage two: Boonen wins in the rain
Stage one: Haedo wins sprint
Prologue: Cancellara wins
|TOUR OF CALIFORNIA: VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS|
Video highlights: stage four
Video highlights: stage three
Video highlights: stage two
Video highlights: stage one
Video highlights: prologue
Stage five video interviews
Millar: “We won’t let Leipheimer win it”
Stage four video interviews
Stage three video interviews
Millar picks Cancellara as favourite for California TT
Cancellara and Millar to challenge Leipheimer
Tour of California: photo gallery
Cipollini: “Third here is worth a hundred other victories”
Stage two: Cavendish angry after sprint mix-up
Cancellara angry with Hamilton, Sevilla, Botero protests
Cancellara: “I always have to win prologues”
Wiggins and Millar unhappy with prologue rides
Tour of California: preview