Under sunny skies in Solvang, Calif., Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team's Levi Leipheimer, of Santa Rosa, Calif., further built on his overall lead in today's critical time trial, besting Team CSC's Jens Voigt (GER) by 18 seconds after an eagerly awaited showdown between the two cyclists.
"I've been looking forward to this race for a year now, and for me it's a dream come true to be leading the Amgen Tour of California," said Leipheimer. "I think I sprinted harder today because I didn't know if I had won. I had nothing left. The moral on Discovery is sky high."
State officials estimate that 1 million fans have attended the 2007 Amgen Tour of California since the San Francisco Prologue on Sunday, putting the race on pace to break its own record as the largest sporting event in California.
"Combining the best collection of cyclists ever to compete in the United States with an incredibly challenging and scenic course, the eyes of the cycling world are clearly focused on the last two days of the Amgen Tour of California," said Shawn Hunter, president of AEG Sports, presenters of the race. "With the title still on the line and two more days of exciting racing to come, we could not have hoped for better finishing stages than we are about to see in Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita and Long Beach."
The 14.5-mile (23.4 km) time trial loop was located in and around the picturesque Danish-themed town of Solvang. Leipheimer covered the course in a time of 29:40.44, with an average speed of 29.4 mph (47.3 kph).
As the overall race leader, Leipheimer was last to start and was reported as 4 seconds faster than Voigt at the halfway point. He picked up time on the climbs, including the twisting Ballard Canyon climb lined with cheering fans, to extend his lead by 14 seconds approaching the line and winning the stage by a comfortable 18 seconds.
Voigt rode to second place with a time of 29:58.51, followed by Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team's Jason McCartney (USA) with a time of 30:05.14. Leipheimer is one step closer to the overall win, retaining his lead by 21 seconds with a total time of 18 hours, 21 minutes and 52 seconds over the past six days of racing. Discovery Channel Pro also holds the overall team lead.
STAGE 6 PRESENTED BY HEALTH NET TODAY:
Saturday, Feb. 24 – Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita (105.4 mi/169.6 km)
Live Race Coverage
Estimated Start Time: 11 a.m.
Estimated Finish Time: 2:30-3:30 p.m.
This could be the pivotal stage for the 2007 Amgen Tour of California. This is one of the longest stages at 105 miles, and it is heavy on climbs with four KOMs, two Sprints and a demanding finishing circuit in Santa Clarita. With the individual time trial late in the tour, there are several teams in contention for a top-3 general classification place in Long Beach, who may look to attack tomorrow to position themselves for the final day. After a start in view of the Santa Barbara shoreline, this stage, sponsored by Health Net, will be the last chance for teams to dislodge Leipheimer from the overall lead before the circuit race finale in Long Beach. Once the peloton hits Highway 150, the racers will face two KOMs before passing Lake Casitas and riding into the scenic town of Ojai for the first Sprint of the day. The third KOM will be just a few miles outside Ojai, and then the course will head downhill into Santa Paula for the second Sprint of the day among fragrant citrus groves. The ominous Balcom Canyon will be the final climb of the day, where in 2006, nearly 10,000 fans formed a narrow corridor for the riders. The cyclists will end the day with three circuits in Santa Clarita that finish at McBean Parkway at the Valencia Town Center.
For full results, archived footage, GPS data, team and course information, race play-by-play and more, please visit the official race Web site at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.