Levi Leipheimer, despite being one of the older riders at age 38, is the top hope for the United States in the 2012 Tour de France.
Perhaps it is time to say he was America's best chance to reach the podium.
Time trials have been Leipheimer's strength, but he finished well behind the leaders in Saturday's Prologue. He was 80th and is 28 seconds behind the leader. More important, he is 11 seconds behind Cadel Evans, one of the two favorites.
The deficit is hardly insurmountable, but Leipheimer was expected to be in better position as riders prepare for Stage 1.
Leipheimer placed third at the Tour in 2007 behind Alberto Contador and the current defending champion, Cadel Evans.
He followed that performance with a second-place finish in the 2008 Spanish Vuelta. He has the ability to perform well at this distance, but was well down the rankings last year when he was riding in a support role.
Leipheimer finished third in the 2012 Tour de Suisse as the defending champion. He had a strong showing in the time trial to close out the race and get back on the podium.
"I didn’t expect to be as good as I was in Switzerland. I was there on the climbs. I’m hoping for the best, I’m hoping to be on the podium.
Day by day, and sometimes kilometer by kilometer. I try to keep relaxed as much as possible during all the drama.
Anything can happen. The race is much bigger than any one contender. We are not battling each other, but all the elements, everything that’s involved in racing over France in three weeks.
The race will put them under pressure. It’s mano a mano when it comes down to the mountains. But for the most part the race puts equal pressure on everyone."
A powerful attack isn't Leipheimer's strong-point. He'll need to find a way to make up some ground in the mountains if he is going to make a move for another Tour de France podium.
Tejay VanGarderen was the top American finisher on the day. He was 10 seconds off the pace of leader Fabian Cancellara.
|Place||Name||Time||Time Gap||Team||Bib #||Age|
|4||Tejay VAN GARDEREN||00:07:23||00:00:10||BMC||009||23|
|5||Edvald BOASSON HAGEN||00:07:24||00:00:11||SKY||102||25|
|6||Brett Daniel LANCASTER||00:07:24||00:00:11||OGE||206||32|