The only thing bad about the Amgen Tour of California, with it’s beautiful scenery, world-class competition, excellent organization and stage selection, is that every year…it has to come to an end. For a rabid cycling fan, the worst day of most big stage races is the day after it’s concluded. You wish it could go on forever, particularly when your stars, THE stars on your team are routing the competition with one great performance after another. But, I suppose like Christmas, a graduation, a great vacation, there’s always the memories. And wow did Team RadioShack supply those!
RadioShack’s three-time winner of this race, Levi Leipheimer, after a great performance, walked away slightly disappointed. He was expected to..what would be the term..”four-peat” (?)’ but it was not to be. He didn’t win his signature stage either, the individual time trial in Solvang, though he just missed winning it to Slipstream-Chipotle’s David Zabriskie, one of the best in the business, by a mere 13 seconds, no shame there. What he did win was the tortuous mountain stage up Mt. Baldy, surprisingly his first ever road stage victory at this race that he’s owned these last 3 years, pulling his mate and race leader Chris Horner up the mountain to increase the winning time gap on the competition. Levi is an amazing champion who placed so high up in every stage that it was, in his words, “bittersweet” that he came in second – a palmare that most racers would die for, but not for a guy who’s owned these roads for so many years.
Gracious champion that we’ve come to expect, he had nothing but praise for his teammate and compatriot who did win the overall general classification. “Chris was the stronger rider and he deserved it” Levi said post race, adding; “having the team take home the victory is satisfying.”
Should be satisfying indeed! Check out this finishing GC list of champions that Chris and Levi made mincemeat of this passed week-and-a-half:
1. Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack
2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) RadioShack
3. Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Cervélo
4. Christian Vande Velde (USA) gamin-Cervélo
5. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) HTC-Highroad
6. Laurene Ten Dam (NED) Rabobank
7. Rory Sutherland (AUS) United Healthcare
8. Andy Schleck (LUX) Leopard-Trek
9. Steve Morabito (SUI) BMC
10. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) Garmin-Cervélo
Side note, if you don’t recognize a name on this list, you’ve not been following cycling closely. These are…NAMES.
Chris Horner rode a race that will not, should not, be soon forgotten. Coming into the event, though a protected rider, he was designated support for Levi and happy with that role. When you’re pedaling with the cyclist that has owned the race 3 times running, no matter how good you are, you accept your place. Chris did, even after he won the climb up Sierra Road, he said he would still be riding to ensure that Levi had all the support he needed. But, as happens in sports, there are times when you’re the stronger guy. This was Chris’ week. He was the stronger guy. And for people who have been following his career, it was about time that he was given his day in the sun again, back on US soil. Chris has won about every important race that has been contested in the US, so it was only fitting that he finally bank this one away in his career highlights.
On stage 4, when he simply walked away (not sneakily jumping, mind you…but purposefully powered away) from a field of elite climbers, one sensed that it was his time. The veteran that he is, he didn’t jump when others attacked, he didn’t try to run down half-hearted digs, he bided his time, stayed confidently within himself and watched it all play out on the road making sure Levi was protected and safe. When he knew it was time to apply power, he hoped Levi would respond too. It was not in the cards, but Chris knew, you have to go when these opportunities present themselves, and Levi would be fine and completely understand. And Chris flew up that hill! Without doubt, the single defining moment of this year’s Tour of California.
But there were other great rides. Liquigas’ 21-year old Peter Sagan (SVK) won the points jersey with some excellent sprinting performances that now catapults him into the arena of the sport’s elite. Repeating his last year’s performance and adding to some other recent victories, he’ll no longer be an unknown and will be recognized as a force in sprint competitions to come.
Spidertech’s Pat McCarty (USA) showed that he can go uphill in a hurry when he wants to. He won the King of the Mountains jersey over some impressive terrain and competition earning the right to enjoy the victory. This year’s Amgen Tour featured some worthy climbs. Good job. You beat one of the best, Levi Leipheimer came in second and Chris Horner third in this competition. Savor this one Pat.
HTC-Highroad’s Tejay Van Garderen (USA) walked away with the Best Young Rider’s Jersey; he’s 22 years old. He beat Garmin-Cervélo’s Andrew Talansky (USA) by 5:58 on the classification. He’s been posting some inspired rides of late in many races throughout the world. His management will want to treat him well cause certainly other teams are watching. Grabbing a 5thplace overall at the Amgen Tour is noteworthy.
Garmin-Cervélo’s Tom Danielson road a great race and came in 3rdthis year. An American rider with an abundance of talent, he showed once again why so many of us should keep paying attention. He’s 33-years old now, no longer an up-and-comer in this sport, but still someone that seems to be just shy of his awesome potential. Danielson said he was honored to be on the podium with Chris and Levi, both of whom were former teammates that he said contributed to his racing skills.
In the team competition, after 23 hours, 46 minutes, and 41 seconds, Garmin-Cervélo, with an undeniably great week of racing, somehow beat Team RadioShack by 1 minute and 41 seconds. With the great rides of Matthew Busche, Haimar, Ben King, Markel and Jason…I’m gonna do my own math on that and see if the official stats check out. Can’t see how they didn’t win that competition too.
So, California is in the record books, the race is done, and our guys prevailed. Wonderful week, great stages, memorable rides. Now we have Tuesday to look forward to. Just won’t be the same.
Oh, wait. Just remembered. There’s a grand tour going on in Italy and Team RadioShack has another team over there pushing up and down the wildly steep Dolomites!
You gotta love this sport.
Team RadioShack Finishes:
1. Chris Horner (USA)
2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) +38
26. Matthew Busche (USA) +12:03
38. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP) +22:42
52. Dmitriy Muravyev (KAZ) +32:48
57. Ben King (USA) +35:15
74. Markel Irizar (ESP) +43:38
108. Jason McCartney (USA) +1hr 03:22
By George Hurst, staff writer