YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Levi Leipheimer stays in lead at Tour of California

Despite hitting the pavement after clipping the wheel of teammate Lance Armstrong, he maintains 24-second lead after Stage 3.

February 18, 2009|Diane Pucin

MODESTO — Phil Southerland, cyclist for Team Type 1, wants to give thanks to the fans at the top of the Patterson Pass climb Tuesday during Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California.

They stood in 40-degree temperatures with their hats being blown off and their feet being soaked and offered handfuls of newspapers to the bikers. It was a kind of Thanksgiving stuffing, crammed inside of vests and jackets to give the racers a layer of faux fat, to keep away the wind and the rain and the bone-chilling cold.

"It would be nice to wake up and see the sun," said Southerland, a diabetic racer for Team Type 1, a squad devoted to bringing attention to diabetes.

Levi Leipheimer of Astana held onto the overall lead even though, as he said, "I hit the pavement," because, for a split second, he took his eye off the glistening road and clipped the wheel of teammate Lance Armstrong.

Thor Hushovd of Cervelo Test Team won Tuesday's stage between San Jose and Modesto in a time of 4 hours, 28.12 seconds. Leipheimer kept his 24-second overall lead over Columbia-Slipstream's Michael Rogers. Armstrong is fourth, 30 seconds back.

Stage 3 was 101.8 miles, about two miles shorter than anticipated. Organizers decided it would be best if racers did one circuit of downtown Modesto instead of two. It was the second time in four days that the course was shortened because of the weather.

Columbia-Slipstream rider Mark Renshaw, who was third in Tuesday's stage, called the finish "extremely dangerous."

Frankie Andreu, a former racer and now a television commentator, said the conditions of this competition, in which it has rained every day since Saturday's prologue, is demanding on everyone -- racers, mechanics, the soigneurs who stand on the road with the food and water bottles waiting for the cyclists to whiz by and the fans who stood five deep even when hail was coming down.

"Tires break, water gets in the tubes in the rims of the tires," Andreu said. "A lot more repairs are involved.

"And for riders, one day in the rain is fine, two days is much tougher, by the third day they're just exhausted. They're in the peloton, riding 40 miles an hour with spray coming up, everything is slicker, more dangerous, nerves are frazzled."

Steve Cozza, who races for Garmin-Slipstream and is from Petaluma, Calif., said the cold also means calories burn more quickly. Where he would normally eat an energy bar every 45 to 60 minutes, Cozza said he is sipping an energy drink every 15 minutes and eating a bar every 30 minutes.

The bright side: The team got new gloves this year made of the same material used for wet suits. "It's like wearing a three-millimeter wetsuit and, man, that's all that matters," he said. "Keeping your hands warm."

Then there is teammate Dave Zabriskie, who is in third place overall. He covers his feet in plastic wrap, Cozza said, then puts on shoes and racing booties over the shoes.

Flat tires have become almost commonplace. Floyd Landis had one in Sunday's Stage 1 that cost him four minutes of time and probably any chance at the overall title.


Los Angeles Times Articles