Thu, Feb 19, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Leipheimer keeps jersey despite crash

AFP AND AP , MODESTO, CALIFORNIA

Team Astana riders Lance Armstrong, left, in black helmet, and Levi Leipheimer, right, in blue helmet, ride outside Tracy, California, during the third stage of the Tour of California on Tuesday.

PHOTO: AP

Levi Leipheimer maintained the overall leader’s yellow jersey in the Tour of California despite a crash with fellow American Lance Armstrong that sent Leipheimer tumbling off his bike.

Norwegian Thor Hushovd, of the Cervelo team, won the rain-hit third stage in a close sprint finish.

Hushovd claimed the 163km stage from San Jose to Modesto in 4 hours, 28 minutes and 12 seconds. Oscar Freire of Spain was second in the stage and Mark Renshaw of Australia was third in the same time.

“Our team did a great job today. I am really thankful,” Hushovd said. “With these three men around me I am looking forward to the future.”

Leipheimer has a 24 second lead in the overall classification ahead of Australian Michael Rogers and American David Zabriskie. Once again the event was marked by bad weather as wind and rain pelted the riders on Tuesday.

Leipheimer went down hard early in the race after colliding with the back end of the bike of teammate Armstrong. Both Leipheimer and Armstrong ride for the Astana team.

Leipheimer hit the ground, causing a small pileup as other riders tried to avoid him. He stayed down for a few seconds but was not injured. He had to get a replacement bike before rejoining the stage.

“It was my fault,” Leipheimer said. “Usually, you can put your foot down, but not today. I just didn’t concentrate for a second. I landed on my butt. It hurts, but nothing’s broken, so it’s no big deal. It’s racing etiquette not to attack when the race leader crashes, so I just took my time.”

Armstrong looked back briefly at Leipheimer but remained on his bike. Organizers shortened the stage for safety reasons by eliminating the second of two finishing circuits and reducing the length of the neutralized stage start.

For the third day, strong rain fell and it took its toll. American riders Ted King, Omer Kim and Ian Macgregor individually crashed during the stage and abandoned the race.

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