Astana's Leipheimer extends lead
The American goes further ahead in the Tour of California after the time trial.
Last Modified: 21 Feb 2009 09:47 GMT

Levi Leipheimer crosses the line in first place [GALLO/GETTY]
American Levi Leipheimer extended his lead in the Tour of California after edging compatriot David Zabriskie by eight seconds in the individual time trial.

Leipheimer, who has led the nine-day race since Monday's second stage, completed the 24-kilometre dash around Solvang in 30 minutes, 40 seconds to maintain his bid for a hat-trick of California titles.

"There are still two tough stages and anything can happen after today," said Leipheimer, who raised three fingers as he crossed the line.

American seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who is competing on home soil for the first time since ending a three-and-a-half year retirement, finished more than a minute behind Leipheimer to drop from fourth to sixth overall.

The 37-year-old trails Astana team mate Leipheimer by one minute, 46 seconds.

"I gave it everything I had," Armstrong said after crossing the line in 14th place. "But it's been a long time since I've done that."

On a warm and hazy day after a week of rain, Sweden's Gustav Larsson finished third in 30:57 while Australia's Michael Rogers, who began the day in second place trailing by 24 seconds, finished 22 seconds behind Leipheimer in fourth.

'Close race'

"This year, the time trial means the most because it was a such close race," Leipheimer added. "I respect Dave (Zabriskie). He's one of the best time trialists in the world.

"For me to beat these guys is a big honour. It means the most since it was tightest race, a great race."

American Floyd Landis, the dethroned 2006 Tour de France champion competing for the first time since the end of his two-year doping suspension, finished 54th in the stage and is 36th overall, trailing by 10:26.

Spaniard Carlos Sastre, the reigning Tour de France titlist, finished 82nd in the stage and is 99th overall, trailing Leipheimer by 37:09.

"People have less and less to lose so they are more willing to throw caution to the wind and come at us with everything they have," said Leipheimer, who was third in the 2007 Tour de France.

"The competition is super high. You won't find a better peloton right now."

Saturday's seventh stage is a 143-km run from Santa Clarita to Pasadena before finishing on Sunday in Escondido.

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