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GC Winner

Levi Leipheimer

Stage Winners

Prologue: Fabian Cancellara, Switzerland

Stage 1: Francisco Mancebo, Spain

Stage 2: Thomas Peterson

Stage 3: Thor Hushovd

Stage 4: Mark Cavendish

Stage 5: Mark Cavendish

Stage 6: Levi Leipheimer

Stage 7: Rinaldo Nocentini

Stage 8: Frank Schleck

Tour of California

2009 Tour of California

Prologue

SACRAMENTO (AP) — Lance Armstrong returned to competitive cycling in his native country Saturday with a smooth 10th-place finish in the prologue to the Tour of California.

The seven-time Tour de France winner finished the 2.4-mile course around California's Capitol building in 4 minutes, 37.17 seconds, coming in just 4.3 seconds off the pace set moments later by Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara.

RESULTS: Tour of California prologue

Levi Leipheimer, Armstrong's Astana teammate and the race's two-time defending champion, finished second at 4:34.11 in the day's final ride. But Armstrong decidedly was the main attraction to tens of thousands of fans who crowded the downtown Sacramento streets for one fleeting glimpse of his abbreviated ride.

Winner: Fabian Cancellara, Switzerland

Stage 1

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) (AP) — Lance Armstrong finished among the leaders in the Tour of California's opening stage on an exasperating Sunday that included drenching rain, a flat tire and even the theft of his time-trial bike.

Armstrong persevered through his profoundly gloomy day to finish fifth in the stage, although he was awarded a finish time identical to that of 17 other riders in a large peloton directly behind surprise winner Francisco Mancebo of Spain.

Armstrong led a chase group that never quite caught up to the soaked race leaders on the final miles of a grueling 107-mile grind.

But the day began inauspiciously and got worse before a solid finish by Armstrong, who might have been rethinking his comeback during five frigid hours in the rain — if he hadn't already endured much tougher struggles with cancer and doping allegations during a historic racing career that includes seven Tour de France titles.

"Holy hell. That was terrible," Armstrong wrote on his Twitter feed about 15 minutes after finishing. "Maybe one of the toughest days I've had on a bike, purely based on the conditions. I'm still freezing."

Stage 2

Two-time defending champion Levi Leipheimer took over the race leader's yellow jersey at the Amgen Tour of California Monday after a bold move on the final climb of Stage 2 that erased the 62-second overall lead of Spaniard Francisco Mancebo of Rock Racing.

Leipheimer is now 24 seconds ahead of overall runner-up Australian Michael Rogers of Team Columbia-High Road.

With the help of Astana teammate Lance Armstrong, Californian Leipheimer launched his attack on the steep slopes of the Bonny Doon Road climb with 17 miles left in the 116-mile race, then dropped a series of challengers until Thomas Peterson of the Garmin-Slipstream team edged him at the finish line in Santa Cruz.

Stage 3

MODESTO, Calif. (AP) — Levi Leipheimer bumped wheels with Lance Armstrong, but recovered to maintain his lead after Thor Hushovd won the third stage Tuesday in the rain-soaked Tour of California.

Hushovd claimed the 101-mile stage from San Jose to Modesto in 4 hours, 28 minutes and 12 seconds, after which two-time winner Leipheimer was still 24 seconds ahead of Australian Michael Rogers.

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who began the day fourth overall, finished in the main group with Leipheimer. Armstrong remained 30 seconds behind his teammate Leipheimer.

Stage 4

CLOVIS, Calif. (AP) — Mark Cavendish won the mountainous fourth stage and Montana's Levi Leipheimer moved closer to his third straight Tour of California title after finishing in the pack Wednesday.

Cavendish edged Tom Boonen by less than half a bike length in the 115.4-mile road race from Merced to Clovis. Juan Jose Haedo of Argentina was third.

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who began the day in fourth place, also finished in the main field. Armstrong remained 30 seconds behind Leipheimer, a native of Butte, Mont.

Stage 5

Cavendish won a stage for the second straight day and two-time defending champion Levi Leipheimer kept his race lead for the fourth straight day after the fifth stage of the Tour of California on Thursday.

Cavendish completed the 134.3-mile (216-kilometer) stage — the longest in the event — from Visalia to Paso Robles in 5 hours, 7 minutes, 28 seconds. The Briton beat Belgium's Tom Boonen for the second straight day.

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who began the day in fourth place, finished 19th in the main field. Armstrong remained 30 seconds behind Leipheimer.

Stage 6

SOLVANG, Calif. (AP) — Lance Armstrong is just along for the ride this time. The Tour of California is all about helping teammate Levi Leipheimer defend his title.

So far, so good.

Leipheimer won the individual time trial Friday and added to his overall lead, with Armstrong finishing 14th.

Leipheimer crossed the finish line of the 15-mile course in 30 minutes, 40 seconds, and waved three fingers on his right hand to signal his third consecutive time-trial victory in this quaint Danish tourist town. The American who competes for Astana is going for his third victory in the race's four-year history and increased his overall lead by 12 seconds.

Stage 7

PASADENA, California (AP) — Levi Leipheimer is usually cast in the role of domestique, sacrificing his individual performance to help a teammate. This time, Lance Armstrong is playing that part and Leipheimer is the star.

But the American teammates were minor players during the Tour of California on Saturday.

Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy lunged ahead of New Zealand's Hayden Roulston at the finish line to win Stage 7.

Leipheimer of Astana retained his overall lead while finishing 18th in the 88.9-mile leg from Santa Clarita to Pasadena's historic Rose Bowl stadium.

Stage 8

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (AP) — With a boost from Lance Armstrong and a tough mountain to climb, Levi Leipheimer won his third straight Tour of California on Sunday.

Leipheimer was ninth in the final stage and finished with an overall time of 31 hours, 28 minutes, 21 seconds. His winning margin was 36 seconds over fellow American David Zabriskie of Garmin-Slipstream.

Leipheimer took over the lead in the nine-day race last Monday and never gave it up.

"It's the sweetest victory of the three," Leipheimer said. "It's hard to describe. I mean, to keep a streak going like that, it just becomes so difficult. I told Lance this week that I don't know how the hell he won seven times in the Tour de France. I've got a lot of respect for that because the pressure builds, the expectations are higher and you can't get second place because that's losing."

Armstrong, who began a comeback last month, spent this race in support of Leipheimer, his Astana teammate. The seven-time Tour de France winner finished 31st in Sunday's stage and seventh overall, 1 minute, 46 seconds behind Leipheimer.

Third place overall went to Australian Michael Rogers of Team Columbia-High Road, who was 45 seconds behind Leipheimer.

"It was a hell of a good time," Armstrong said.

Armstrong said he enjoyed the role of supporting his teammate.

"Nobody came in here with any other expectation than riding for Levi," he said.

Armstrong has said the priority of his comeback is to spread the message of the fight against cancer more than to win his eighth Tour de France in June or his first Giro d'Italia.

But two stage races into his comeback, he said he feels in pretty good shape.

"I think overall we're happy with where we are," Armstrong said. "If you compare Feb. 22 to any other year, we're well ahead of that.

"Obviously to win the Tour you have to be as strong as possible and as light as possible. I don't necessarily need to get that much stronger but I have to get lighter. Three and half years away of not watching every gram of food you put in your body and the amount of wine you consume takes its toll, so you've got to get back into it."

 


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