Two Million Fans Turned Out to Watch the Best Field Ever
Assembled Cycle Across California.
After nine challenging and epic days of cycling through more
than 750-miles of scenic California roads, and a thrilling fight to the finish,
Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Astana was crowned champion of the 2009 Amgen Tour of
California, solidifying a three-peat for the California resident.
With a week-long total time of 31 hours, 28 minutes and 21
seconds, Leipheimer accepted the highly coveted title of race champion in front
of massive cheering crowds in Escondido, which brought the race total to 2
million fans along the race route from Sacramento to Escondido. In a
nine-day battle against the best field ever assembled to compete in the United
States, which included Tour de France winners, Olympic medalists and World Champions,
Frank Schleck (LUX) of Saxo Bank claimed the Stage 8 win.
“I’ve been trying to think about how to articulate this and
it’s tough,” said Leipheimer. “To win it once, that was huge. To
win it twice, that was almost a little bit of a surprise and almost felt like
luck. But now, to have won the Amgen Tour of California
three times, it’s the sweetest victory of all. I think we proved that we
were the best team in the race. There is no question about that.”
David Zabriskie (USA) of Garmin-Slipstream finished in
second place overall at 36 seconds behind Leipheimer, and Michael Rogers (AUS)
of Team Columbia-Highroad finished
third at 45 seconds behind.
In one of the most difficult stages of the 2009 race, the
96.8-mile route from Rancho Bernardo to Escondido included one sprint and four
King of the Mountain (KOM) climbs, including the ‘above categorization’ ascent
of Palomar Mountain, the highest point ever reached in the Amgen Tour of
California at 5,123 feet. The ascent unfolded over 11.7 miles and
included 21 switchbacks at an average gradient of seven percent.
For full results, archived footage, team information and
more, please visit the official race Web site at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.
As for Santa Clarita, we got to witness the race point right as the leader jersey was being officially locked down.
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Maybe Santa Clarita is Levi Leipheimer's good luck charm. After
all, for the three years Santa Clarita has been a part the festivities, he has
taken home the championship.
This year, in serving only as a stage seven starting point,
our local stage was more subdued than usual. Rather than a day or full weekend
schedule of events surrounding a big finish, this time it was a short
afternoon, with a dramatic start and then it was all over.
That doesn't mean that 2009 didn't provide its share of
thrills though. World famous rider Lance Armstrong walked and rode on our
streets, participating this year as part of a campaign to raise awareness for
cancer. Also, many of the riders made their way down autograph row, signing
everything in sight before they took off.