SANTA CRUZ // Levi Leipheimer maintained his pursuit of a hat-trick of Tour of California titles by moving into the overall lead with a second-place finish in Monday's second stage. The American crossed the line just behind his compatriot Thomas Peterson while seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong overcame a tangle with a motorcycle photographer to finish 21 seconds behind the stage winner, moving him up to fourth overall.
Riding in wet conditions, Leipheimer emerged from the chasing pack with around 12.4 miles remaining in the 115.9 mile run from Sausalito to Santa Cruz to chase home Peterson, who won the stage in five hours, six minutes and 20 seconds. The Australian Michael Rogers moved into second overall, 24 seconds behind Leipheimer, with a third place stage finish while the American cyclist David Zabriskie is a further four seconds back in the general classification. Armstrong is another two seconds adrift.
Starting the day a little over a minute behind the race leader Francisco Mancebo, Leipheimer was able to battle his way to the top of the standings when the Spaniard faded on the final climb and lost more than two minutes to the leaders. "The weather has been nasty the last couple of days and it really changes the race," Leipheimer said. "I felt great, and I told (teammate Yaroslav) Popovych 'I feel great, let's go'. I couldn't wait any longer. I had to go."
Armstrong, competing in his first North American race since he returned to the sport after retiring three-and-a-half years ago, crashed into a photographer about 74.5 miles into the stage but was able to make up the lost ground on a replacement bike. "A motorcycle for the photographer from the race crashed right in front of me," Armstrong, who rides on the same Astana team as Leipheimer, said. "Unfortunate, but it could have been worse.
"I don't feel too bad, hip is a little banged up but overall a great day. Levi proved he is the best guy in the race hands down." The nine-day race continues on Tuesday with a 104.2 mile stage from San Jose to Modesto. The fourth edition of the tour concludes in Escondido on Sunday. *Reuters