Sunday, February 22, 2009


And it’s Levi in first place at the end of the AToC, for an impressive three-peat.

Levi spent most of the stages tucked safe and warm in the cockles of his teammates' draft. You would be forgiven for thinking it was a bit too easy, that there were no personal heroics to back up his first place showing.

Ah, but wait! Do you remember way back in Stage two, when Levi abruptly soloed off the peloton and, strictly on his own steam, regained three-plus minutes on the break – all while climbing the challenging Bonny Doon? This was probably the decisive moment in his week, and it was all his doing. Do you remember him taking a healthy bite out of Dave Zabriskie’s impressive time and dominating the field in Solvang?

Levi dug deep for this win, and he got it.

Do you doubt that he is the strongest American stage racer right at this moment? Look at the field against which he raced, praised time and again for containing so many of the superstars of the day. Don’t doubt it friends. I always knew he had it in him.

I’ll give Armstrong credit: He promised to ride for Levi, and he really pulled his weight, and then some. On the final climb today, he spent a very long time setting a blistering pace that strung the peloton out in a long line behind. He wanted to make sure Levi’s lead was safe, and indeed it was. Thanks, Lance – I feel a bit more positively toward you.

Two worthy footnotes: 1) Today’s race featured the largest crowd ever to attend a stage in a race on U.S. soil. AToC, you deserve no end of credit for running a fine event. (And extra thanks for the free webcast every day, for those of us without cable TV.) 2) As if a stage win and first in the final GC weren’t enough, Leipheimer also finished fourth in the King of the Mountains competition.

I wonder how the Astana stars will sort out who gets to be the leader come the Giro and the Tour. I wonder if Armstrong will expect payback from Leipheimer. Perhaps that deal’s already been struck. I would be quite disappointed if Levi didn’t get an equal chance at first place in the Tour, where he’s oft been a groomsman, but never a groom. He’s 35 this year, already a tad beyond peak years for such a feat.

But tonight? Tonight we celebrate! Spray the champagne! Hold the big cardboard check up high! Levi, you da man!

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