NBC Sports Tour De France 2012: Top American Levi Leipheimer Faces Uphill Battle

Darin PikeContributor IJuly 1, 2012

LIEGE, BELGIUM - JUNE 30:  Levi Leipheimer of the USA riding for Omega Pharma-Quickstep races to 80th place in the prologue of the 2012 Tour de France on June 30, 2012 in Liege, Belgium.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

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."

Levi Leipheimer

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.


Current Tour de France Standings:

Place  Name   Time   Time Gap   Team   Bib #   Age  
  SUIFabian CANCELLARA 00:07:13 00:00:00 RNT 012 31
  GBRBradley WIGGINS 00:07:20 00:00:07 SKY 101 32
  FRASylvain CHAVANEL 00:07:20 00:00:07 OPQ 192 33
  USATejay VAN GARDEREN 00:07:23 00:00:10 BMC 009 23
  NOREdvald BOASSON HAGEN 00:07:24 00:00:11 SKY 102 25
  AUSBrett Daniel LANCASTER 00:07:24 00:00:11 OGE 206 32
  GERPatrick GRETSCH 00:07:25 00:00:12 ARG 215 25
  RUSDenis MENCHOV 00:07:26 00:00:13 KAT 131 34
  BELPhilippe GILBERT 00:07:26 00:00:13 BMC 004 29
10   UKRAndriy GRIVKO 00:07:28 00:00:15 AST 184 28