For the third year in a row, Levi Leipheimer owned the Solvang individual time trial cementing his lead on the overall title. A three-peat looks more and more likely even though the time gaps between Dave Zabriskie(Garmin-Slipstream) and Michael Rogers(Columbia-High Road) are only 36 and 46 seconds, respectively the next two stage, while difficult, will not be decisive. For Leipheimer it was, yet again, confirmation that he is the strongest rider in the race. But, for Dave Zabriskie, who finished just second seconds behind Leipheimer, it was the ride that we had all been hoping he would finally perform at the Solvang TT.
Zabriskie was on the podium at the first ever AToC, but in the last two editions, he has come into the event with high expectations, but no brass ring. In 2007, an ugly crash on the race's first stage put paid to his chances whereas in 2008, an intestinal bug robbed him of the power so necessary to do well in the race of truth. Temporarly setting the course record, the Z-Man finally delivered the goods and was clearly pleased with his efforts bringing his son with him on the podium.
The big question of whether Lance would get the green light to go full gas was answered in a chat with Astana Team Director Johan Bruyneel. "He will go as fast as he can. It is going to be a very good test for him. It is a long time trial and it is more than three years since he has done a long time trial so it is basically discovering a lit bit the feelings again. We don't know what to expect."
"Maybe he feels good in the beginning and blows up. We don't know. We are really going to play it by the feeling and see how far he can get. But, at the same time we know that there are a handful of riders here who are in really good shape and they are going for the win. I don't expect him to be in the very front. Somewhere between fifth and tenth would be a very good result." After yesterday's stage, Lance told reporters that he would most likely lose about a minute to Levi in the TT. Lance ended up 14th, 1'16" back of Leipheimer.
When asked about how he felt Levi would perform, Bruyneel replied, "Well, Levi has won the time trial the last two years and he wants to win again. The main goal is to defend the lead and if we can get that we will be happy."
Levi's better half, Odessa Gunn, was in Solvang to support her man. I asked Odessa how she felt Levi would perform. "This is one of his favorite days. Certainly in the race, but in general. He loves this stage. He loves this town. He loves time trialing."
And how does Odessa give her support? "Staying out of his way. Because I have this uncanny ability to always ask him the wrong question at the wrong time. So, I just keep my distance and say good luck."
When Levi crossed the line, he held up three fingers signifying a three-peat. It was unclear if he was
talking about his third straight victory in the Solvang TT or his third overall win.
Dave Z heading out of the starting gate. He is the picture of concentration.
It's Back!!!!!!!! Lance's stolen TT bike was found in an alley in Sacramento sans wheels. City of Sacramento officials brought the bike back to the team for the TT.