What's Cool In Road Cycling

ToCA’07 St. 5 – The Best Way To Defend Is To Win

Stage 3 was tough, but Leipheimer always said that the race would come down to Friday’s 23.5k TT – and right he was – and right he was to be confident in his chances today. Levi rode, arguably, the time trial of his career to not only defend his lead, but win the stage and widen it, and stamp his authority all over ‘his’ race.

– Reported by Chris Gutowsky of VeloSport Vacations. Chris is calling the ‘official’ action as it happens for the race organizers – and shares his adventures of the day as a special feature for PEZ .

On a moto, you don’t really feel the wind exactly like you do on a bike, but at lower speeds you certainly get a taste for what the riders are dealing with out there on the course. And today it tasted like the local dirt, as it was all about the wind, with gusts of 20-25mph slapped the riders in the face right out of the box. Rolling just behind first Hincapie and then Leipheimer, it was easy to see that even the best were having to seriously focus to keep a straight line as the gusts pushed at them, the bike and the rear discs.

It was a fine day for a bike race in Solvang today, and the Jelly Belly boys had quite the view…behind them.

Especially with these conditions, it was easy to appreciate Levi’s winning ride, as it confirmed his early season form while showcasing his latest aerodynamic position. On the rollling, wind-blown course that seemed more suited to the talents of Voigt, the Discovery rider padded his lead by 18 seconds and probably sealed an overall victory.

World TT Champ, Fabian Cancellara, set an impressive early time that stood for a long while, but he was eventually bested by the top GC riders. Speaking of great times – how about Priority Health’s two locomotives – Ben Jacques-Maynes and Tom Zirbel netted 13th and 15th on the day, huge results for the two domestic pro’s, and further evidence that that Priority Team is doing something very, very correctly.

Yep, looks like it was a wee bit colder than freezing in the mountains above Solvang for the bad weather of a few days ago.

Besides the crowded start and finish lines area, the mid-course time checkpoint and the single climb attracted the most fans, with the latter “bump” having the feel of a mini-KOM. The course itself was impressive, with a wide variety of terrain and surroundings, everything from winterized vineyards to just-blooming orchards, all framed by the snowcapped (yes!) Santa Ynez mountains.

Bobby Julich appeared to be a candidate for the victory today, especially after his previous comments. He put in a decent ride good enough for 6th, 42 seconds behind little Levi.

Diversion #1 – Ostrich spotting along the TT course.

Some of the mid-course stretches were quite narrow and though the descent had tricky parts, we watched both Leipheimer and Hincapie negotiate the turns without a hitch. A large segment of the faster downhill and tailwind stretches have brand-new asphalt, which only added to the speeds. Following Levi through this at 40mph+ into the final k was a blast, as it was packed on both sides; the last left turn at two hundred meters brought a fresh wave of noise to our ears as the crowd knew from the time-checks he was on a potentially winning ride.

Tom Danielson put in a pretty fair TT today – finishing 14th – 1:20 back. Probably not exactly what he was hoping for though.

A Toyota-United rider flies by a rural church.

Jason McCartney was the man to beat in the latter part of today’s stage and pulled off an excellent 3rd. He said he prepared for the Tour of California for the last few weeks with a lot of cross-country skiing back home in Iowa. So there’s that.

Once through the turn, Levi was out of the saddle to the line and everyone had the instantaneous gratification of seeing his time come up with the number 1 next to it. Those of us in the trailing vehicles got a bonus look at the tired rider’s face as he u-turned back towards the line, quiet satisfaction already replacing the strain of the effort.

Levi rode his new-fangled time trial position to the best TT of his career.

Diversion #2 – Levi was almost as fast as this guy.

Jens Voigt was this writer’s favorite for today’s stage, but Voigt came up a bit short in his bid for the stage and the overall. Still a good ride and a positive sign for the big German who’s aiming for the upcoming non-UCI sanctioned Paris-Nice.

Levi had it easily on the line.

Just by chance, we shared a dinner table with his parents this evening, who seemed satisfied as well and like many, just happy to be there. I watched with them as the local organizers auctioned an ATOC race leader jersey to be signed by the eventual winner. When the bidding finally stalled, his father offered up a picture to go with it, which stimulated more bids and a nice donation towards the local expenses. Though the race isn’t over yet, everyone seemed just fine with the idea of the leaders jersey staying right where it is.

He celebrated with ex-racer and wife, Odessa, and their little dog.

Jens Voigt didn’t seem too happy after the stage…

But he was all smiles a little while later. The day’s podium: Leipheimer, Voigt, and McCartney.

Results Stage 5
1. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Discovery, 29:40.44
2. Jens Voigt (G), CSC, at 0:18
3. Jason McCartney (USA), at 0:24
4. Fabian Cancellara (Swi), CSC, at 0:37
5. George Hincapie (USA), Discovery, at 0:40
6. Bobby Julich (USA), CSC, at 0:41
7. Christian Vande Velde (USA), CSC, at 0:56
8. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), CSC, at 0:59
9. Ivan Basso (I), Discovery Channel, at 1:02.57
10. Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA), Priority Health, at 1:14.17

General Classification With Two Days To Go
1. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Discovery Channel, 18:21:52
2. Jens Voigt (G), CSC, at 0:21
3. Jason McCartney (USA), Discovery Channel, at 0:54
4. Bobby Julich (USA), CSC, at 1:06
5. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), CSC, at 1:20
6. Christian Vande Velde (USA), CSC, at 1:24
7. Michael Rogers (Aus), T-Mobile, at 1:34
8. Ben Day (Aus), Navigators, at 1:38
9. Franco Pellizotti (I), Liquigas, at 1:41
10. Ryder Hesjedal (Can), Health Net -Maxxis, at 1:57

Today’s race report provided by Chris Gutowsky of VeloSport Vacations. Check em out for some great ideas for your next cycling trip. For more information, contact VeloSport Vacations at P.O. Box 1235, Bloomington, IN 47402, 800-988-9833, www.VeloVacations.com

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