Tour de Suisse – Levi Leipheimer Laughs Last

Tour de Suisse – Levi Leipheimer Laughs Last

The 9-Day, 1,245.9-kilometer (774+ mile) 75th edition of the Tour de Suisse is now in the record books. Traveling through some truly beautiful country, great old cities,
serious alpine climbs, 3 countries, and numerous tricky switchbacks and tight turns,
Team RadioShack’s members had not been setting many headlines. Sure there were
some excellent performances, Andreas Klöden and Levi Leipheimer came in 5th and 9th in the opening time trial, and Levi had several top 10 performances throughout the race, but for the most part, the team quietly and competently committed their entire efforts
to Levi Leipheimer’s bid to take the overall general classification on the day when it
would count. The final day. But winning this race was never a given, with the iron clad
lead that Lampre-ISD’s Damiano Cunego (ITA) had on this race since the 3rd stage. He
looked unbeatable, and coming into today’s final stage had a 1 minute and 59 second
lead on Levi who sat in 4th place on the GC.

But, they call it the Overall General Classification (GC) for one reason, it’s a measure
not of stage wins, combativeness, climbing ability, sprinting, or time trialing alone, it’s a
measure of a man’s ability to master each of these disciplines so well, that overall they
stand out among every other elite cyclist attempting to do the same. In the case of the
Tour de Suisse, that meant besting the efforts of 180 world-class professionals from
20 teams vying for a shot at the podium. Levi Leipheimer stood out among all of them
today, on a cool, but relatively dry day in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, with a performance
that neither he, nor his teammates, nor his team director, nor his fans will soon forget.

Levi literally time trialed his way to the overall GC victory, with an excellent 3rd place
finish on the day. It would prove just enough to beat Cunego by the slimmest of margins
to make him the 3rd American to win this race since it’s inception in 1933. In fact, in
his post race interview Levi mentioned that he, “got an email from Andy Hampsten a
previous winner of the race” (1986 and 1987) encouraging him on and said, “I’m happy
to follow in his foot steps.” Oh, by the way, the other American to have won here was
none other than Lance Armstrong in 2001.

The 32-kilometer individual time trial proved a bit of a test for many of the racers given
the 650 meter bump at about the 29-kilometer mark that made many of the world’s
fastest riders look quite slow going over. However, 3 Team RadioShack riders looked
particularly fast throughout the entire course: Andreas Klöden (GER), Levi, and Nelson
Olivera (POR). While using up reserves supporting Levi this past week over some
grueling terrain, seems everyone on the teamed saved a little and pulled out all the stops
for this final day. The reason Andreas, Levi, and Nelson looked so good going over the
course was because they were going so FAST – they finished 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respectively
in this final stage. That’s right, 3 Shack riders in the top 4! Simply great rides by all of
them after a particularly hard tour in the Swiss Alps. If Cancellara (see below) took a
day off, we owned the podium on this final day.

Levi even mentioned that “without Team RadioShack, [throughout the Tour], I couldn’t
have done this. It was a much harder race than last year.” While it was painful to watch
Andreas Klöden have such a rough day on Stage 2, losing some 10+ minutes to the
leaders, it may have worked in RadioShack’s favor, leving one clear favorite for all of the
team to solidify behind for the rest of the race. You can bet this put a lot of pressure on
the anointed leader to have someone of Andreas’ caliber riding in support. We’ve now

witnessed once again, just how well Mr. Leipheimer deals with pressure! Coming into
the final meters of the course today, Levi said; “The team director was yelling Sprint,
Sprint, Sprint” as he was coming to the line realizing how close this great performance
was. With the final tally, Levi ended up beating Cunego on the GC by just 4 seconds,
channeling the pressure to boost his effort.

Leopard-Trek’s Fabian Cancellara (SUI) won the day’s ITT with another excellent
display of power and pain over this demanding course on home soil. With his bookend
TT wins at this year’s race he continues to solidify his sole claim to the title of the
universe’s best time trialist. If there is one sure bet in cycling, similar to last year’s
sure bet – Mark Cavendish in a bunch sprint – it’s Spartacus against the clock. Have
fun watching him every chance you get; there won’t be another like him for a while.
Rounding out the overall GC podium was Rabobank’s Steven Kruijswijk (NED) who
came in third, 1:02 behind Levi.

Come July, Levi will be in his 8th Tour de France, his 12th Grand Tour. Now we all know
he has an amazing list of palmarès, but lets just focus in on the big European stage
races. He’s finished 2nd in the Vuelta, 3rd in the Tour, and 5th in the Giro over his career,
but perhaps more amazing when you look at his Grand Tour stats, every time he’s
completed one (only withdrew twice) he’s finished in the top 20. He’s finished in the top
10, 7 times – more than have of his entries! Leipheimer never seems to walk away from
a competition disappointing his fans, but perhaps more importantly, he doesn’t seem to
want to disappoint himself. He comes focused, prepared and in great shape wanting to
give his all every time he clips into those pedals at the starting line. Expect nothing less
come July 2nd, when this powerful team once again competes in the greatest (cycling)
show on earth!

Results, Stage 9, Individual Time Trial
1. Fabian Cancellara (SUI) Leopard-Trek
2. Andreas Klöden (GER) RadioShack 00:09
3. Levi Leipheimer (USA) RadioShack 00:13
4. Nelson Oliveira (POR) RadioShack 00:25
5. Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Cervelo 00:38
6. Gustav Larsson (SUI) Saxo Bank-Sungard 00:41
7. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) Leopard-Trek 00:44
8. Thomas De Gendt (BEL) Vacansoleil-DCM 00:48
9. Chris Froome (GBR) Sky 01:02
10. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Cervelo 01:04

Results, Overall General Classification Tour de Suisse
1. Levi Leipheimer (USA) RadioShack
2. Damiano Cunego (ITA) Lampre-ISD 00:04
3. Steven Kruijswijk (NED) Rabobank 01:02
4. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) Leopard-Trek 01:10
5. Bauke Mollema (NED) Rabobank 02:05
6. Mathias Frank (SUI) BMC Racing 02:24
7. Frank Schleck (LUX) Leopard-Trek 02:35
8. Laurens Ten Dam (NED) Rabobank 03:11
9. Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Cervelo 03:17
10. Maxime Monfort (BEL) Leopard-Trek 04:12

By George Hurst, staff writer