Three-time champion confirms he will ride in next month’s showpiece race, ending speculation he might withdraw.
|RadioShack had three riders in the stage’s top ten which bodes well ahead of July’s Tour de France [EPA]|
US cyclist Levi Leipheimer won the Tour of Switzerland on Sunday ahead of Italy’s Damiano Cunego with Steven Kruisjwijk of the Netherlands in third place.
RadioShack’s Leipheimer inched seconds ahead of Cunego in the final time trial to snatch overall victory.
The 37-year-old rider finished in 31 hours, 45 minutes and 2 seconds.
Former Giro d’Italia champion Cunego failed to hold on to the yellow jersey he’d worn since Monday and finished four seconds behind overall.
Lampre all-rounder Cunego lost the yellow jersey by the second smallest margin in the race’s history.
Cunego went into the final stage with a 1min 59sec lead over Leipheimer and knowing full well he was under pressure.
His worst fears were confirmed when Leipheimer put in a powerful display around Switzerland’s northern-most town of Schaffhausen to finish third only four seconds behind teammate Andreas Kloden and 13secs behind world champion Cancellara.
Cunego, who took the race lead after finishing second in stage three to Grindelwald, said in recent days that Leipheimer was his biggest concern.
And despite giving it his all on the hilly course, which at times was buffeted by short gusts of wind, the Italian’s bid was always hanging in the balance.
Cunego passed the second time check, at 22.9km, still with a 33sec lead on Leipheimer in the provisional overall standings.
However he went on to finish 2:16 off Cancellara’s pace, handing Leipheimer the win by just four seconds.
Leipheimer, who kept himself hidden for most of the week, said his sporting director’s advice in the finale may have been decisive.
“I didn’t know how close it was at the end,” said the American, who had started fourth from last in the 140-stong field.
“All I heard was my director shouting at me to sprint for the finish at the end. I think that might have made the difference.
“I had good days and bad days this week. It was a very hard Tour of Switzerland.”
In third place overall was Dutch tyro Steven Kruijswijk of Rabobank, who finished 1:02 behind Leipheimer in the overall standings. Defending champion Frank Schleck of Leopard finished seventh overall at 2:35.
Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara closed his home race the way he opened it, winning the ninth stage’s 32.1 km time trial around Schaffhausen to claim his second stage win after his opening time trial victory in Lugano.
Cancellara was virtually untouchable, with only specialists like Kloden and Leipheimer getting close to upstaging the record four-time world and Olympic champion.
This year’s race was overshadowed by the crash of Juan Mauricio Soler on Thursday. His team Movistar says the Colombian’s condition is improving but he remains in hospital in an artificial coma with a fractured skull and ankle.
The year’s biggest race, the Tour de France, starts on the French Atlantic coast July 2.