Levi Leipheimer was part of an ultra select group of 18 riders, including yellow jersey wearer (and eventual overall winner) Johann Tschopp (BMC Racing Team), chasing down Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) up the road on the brutal final categorized climb of the day in the 123.7km Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah Stage 6: Empire Pass. Levi, who is very familiar with the climb, attacked just as Tschopp's teammate fell off the pace.
The only rider who tried to stick to Levi's wheel was Sutherland himself when Leipheimer passed him. However, not even he could maintain the pace. Leipheimer was aiming for the stage win, and possibly the GC as he trailed Tschopp by 2'07" in the overall.
Leipheimer went into time trial mode, and his gap only grew going into the final kilometers. Brian Holm shouted encouragement at him as he continued to gain time. He won the stage solo, crossing the line with both hands raised in Park City.
Leipheimer, as a result of his solo attack, finished 6th overall (+1'08").
This is the 46th victory in three disciplines for Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team.
"I am really happy about this victory," Leipheimer said. "I was really looking forward to this race and for Colorado. Already yesterday I felt that I was improving. I only miscalculated the final a little bit, but today I knew the course really well. I train a lot here. I have a good friend who lives here, so I know the area. I'm not saying this was easy, but after a lot of training on this climb and staying in this area, it showed with my result. It was marvelous to attack and arrive solo after the descent. After the Tour de France I stayed focused. I didn't gain weight, I recovered and I continued to ride and train. Now I will really look forward to Colorado. These two races — Utah and Colorado — are important to me and I am the defending champ of both of them. When you start with the number one on your back, you have to always try your best for the good of your team, yourself, and the race."
Photo: Luis Barbosa