Saturday, September 20, 2008

Leipheimer and Contador deliver one-two Astana punch

American Levi Leipheimer stomped his way to a second time trial win in the 63rd Vuelta a España and looks set as the favourite to beat for next week's World Championships. He bettered his Astana teammate and overall race leader, Alberto Contador, by 31 seconds at the end of a 17.1-kilometre climb up Alto de Navacerrada, but still trails the Spaniard on the overall classification by 46 seconds.

When asked if he could have won the Vuelta under different circumstances, Leipheimer said, "I had no pressure. [Contador] had a lot of pressure in this race. He is Spanish, it's the Tour of Spain. It's impossible to say [if I could have won]. He deserves the victory. I never though about winning the Vuelta [today]. I wanted to win the stage."

Spaniard Contador rode within himself to defend the maillot oro and, barring incident, will win the race's overall after tomorrow's 'sprinters' stage' in Madrid. Leipheimer remains second overall ahead of Spaniard Sastre of Team CSC-Saxo Bank.

With the possible win in Madrid tomorrow, Contador becomes the only one of five riders to win all three Grand Tours – joining Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx, Felice Gimondi and Jacques Anquetil. He went from the maillot jaune on Paris' Champs Élysées to the maglia rosa in Milano and on to his final triumph in a period of 14 months.

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