Tour of California Stage 5: Solvang TT

Jen Voigt vs. Levi Leipheimer warming up

*left: Jens Voigt on the finishing straight of the Coit Tower Prologue. right: Levi Leipheimer warms up. *

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Even with 91 riders within 1 minute of Levi's overall time, this was a race between two riders: Levi and Jens (CSC vs. Discovery, as it often is). Jens was the stronger sprinter on stage 3 and beat Levi across the line to move within three seconds of Levi's overall lead. Jens is also an amazing time trialist -- it was going to be close.

Jens and Levi started last, but that doesn't mean that the "pre-battle" wasn't entertaining as well. Priority Health put in an amazing showing early on. Tom Zirbel set the best time on the day. Priority Health had another good showing with Ben Jacques-Mayes, who was able to finish 4th overall and best Zirbel's time. It wasn't until World TT champion Fabian Cancellara came rolling through at 30:17 that the battle started to tilt towards the ProTour riders.

The Discovery Armada put huge dents in the standings with Basso, Hincapie, and Danielson, but none were able to best Cancellara's time. The big (but pleasant) surprise came from Discovery's Jason McCartney, who was the first to be Cancellara's time. McCartney has been Leipheimer's lieutenant for this Tour of California and always seems to show up well in the North American series.

Horner, Julich, and Rogers came in with respectable times, but their split times made it clear that the real battle was Jens vs. Levi.

At the first time split they broadcast, Jens was three seconds up on Levi. It was a virtual tie on the road. The second time split we heard: Levi was 4 seconds faster than Jens at the halfway point.

Jens Voigt crossed the line at 29:58, the fastest time on the day and the first sub-30-minute time. It was an amazing time that best world TT champ Fabian Cancellara as well as Jason McCartney's amazing effort. It seemed that Jens may have pulled it off.

Jens Voigt

above: Jens Voigt crosses the finish line, the first rider to break the 30-minute barrier

That is, until they announced Levi only had 1k to go. The clock was just ticking up to 29 minutes -- that gave Levi more than enough time to do the final kilometer. Levi didn't know though because Johan Bruyneel was yelling in his ear that he needed to give it full gas because it was going to be close. Levi charged to the finish a full 18 seconds faster than Jens Voigt, sealing the stage victory and most likely putting keeping him in the overall jersey for good.

below: Levi sprints and crosses the finish line to take the stage

Levi Leipheimer Levi Leipheimer Levi

Keeping the overall lead from start to finish is an amazing achievement for Leipheimer. Last year his attempt was undone by a poor showing in the stage 3 time trial. Whether or not it is his new time trial position, new team, or better conditioning, who knows, but Leipheimer has undoubtedly been the strongest rider to show up to this Tour of California.

CSC could attempt something amazing tomorrow, but the KOMs are so far from the finish it would have to be epic. Discovery has been hit hard this Tour: Sierra Road cost Discovery Davis and the green jersey. Discovery was lucky that this year's Pacific Coast Highway stage was relatively tame.

Fabian Cancellara had set the best time on the day until Jason McCartney amazingly beat it

Jason McCartney IMG_1225

IMG_0955 IMG_0909 IMG_0996 Leipheimer and McCartney IMG_1137 Fabian Cancellara starting Tom Danielson starting IMG_1539

IMG_1603 George and Lance IMG_1556

kwc Stage 5 Photo Gallery

VeloNews Stage 5 Summary

related articles: Tour of California 2007
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