Santa Rosa Native Takes Down the AMGEN
A week after winning the opening prologue in San Francisco, Team Discovery’s Levi Leipheimer was crowned champion of the 2007 AMGEN Tour of California bicycle race Sunday afternoon in Long Beach. Having done battle with Mother Nature, 650 miles of California roadways and 144 of the world’s best cyclists, the Californian-born powder keg of leg power won the 8-day race with a total time of 24 hours, 57 minutes and 24 seconds. Decked out in the traditional yellow jersey of the race leader, Leipheimer basked in the glory Sunday afternoon, calling the victory “maybe the most satisfying” of his career.
Captain of the Discovery cycling team made famous by Lance Armstrong, Leipheimer led the AMGEN from beginning to end— including the two stages that blazed through Santa Barbara County. After a dramatic victory in last Friday’s time trial in Solvang, Leipheimer relied on the strength and strategies of his fellow Discovery teammates to maintain his healthy 21-second lead over eventual number two finisher Jens Voigt during Saturday’s crash riddled-Stage 6 ride from downtown Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita. Though the start of the Santa Barbara stage was marked with feel-good smiles and friendly waves to the thousands of race fans packed along Cabrillo Drive, the action turned serious almost immediately after the peloton entered the hills of Montecito. Aggressive riders broke for the lead and in the ensuing chase, tires bumped and pedals clanged, sending more than one rider ass-over-tea kettle—including standout George Hincapie, who broke a wrist in his fall.
The action continued for pretty much the entire 105 miles to Santa Clarita, with several attacks on the lead and efforts from Team Discovery riders—and others— to stop the bleeding. However, in the end, the aggressive riders were caught, ensuring that Leipheimer would enter Sunday’s final stage with a solid lead—one that could only be jeopardized by a massive disaster or rider implosion.
All told, according to the California Highway Patrol, more than 1.3 million people turned out to watch during the week long race. While local crowds seemed a bit smaller than last years first ever AMGEN Tour, organizers happily reported that Stage 6—which started along the sandy shores of East Beach—was the most attended stage to date in the history of the race.
For final race results and various category winners click here