Leipheimer Gila grades: A+

Lance & Levi working it.

Levi Leipheimer turned in his final homework Sunday in preparation for the Tour of California. Nice job, A+, mastery of all material.

His Tour of the Gila assignment turned out nicely for the Mellow Johnny star as he won the overall title for the second year, beating Tom Danielson of Garmin DZ Nuts by a minute.

“I’m happy with what we accomplished at the Tour of the Gila this week,” said Leipheimer. “I came here straight from sea level and I think to do the performance I did showed that I’m in great shape. I honestly felt fine the whole week and was never in trouble. I don’t think it could have gone any better.”

With Lance Armstrong riding support, Leipheimer had no trouble taming the Gila Monster — the leg-breaking 30km climb and queen stage of the SRAM Tour of the Gila.

Darren Lill (Fly V Australia) attacked at the base of the climb and built a decent and mildly threatening lead on Leipheimer but that was just a small bump in the road.

“The time gaps were up and down and then all of a sudden Johan [Bruyneel] drove up and said Lill had three-and-a-half minutes,” Leipheimer explained. “At that point Lance had been pulling for a really long time and he gave it everything he had. I had to do the last five miles by myself and just to be safe I kept going to close the gap.”

So hand the man a pair of flip flops and a cold beer and get him a chaise lounge next to the swimming pool. Leipheimer is officially ready to wrack havoc in the Tour of California, a race he’s already won three times. The Santa Rosa rider owns the Cali stage race like Armstrong used to own the Tour of France.

Speaking of Armstrong, the Mellow Johnny team owner finished the Gila in 17th place. Whether that’s a good sign or a bad sign, only Lance would know. His party invitation is for July 3rd in Rotterdam and there’s no point in renting the tux this week. At 38 years of age, the Texan needs a slow, steady, crash-free build for the one and only one objective of the year. In that sense, all systems go. He’s not red hot like Contador right now but he doesn’t necessarily need to be.

Mixed bag of nuts. Dave Zabriske and Tom Danielson came to Gila with high hopes and left with hmm, guarded optimism? Argle genius Jonathan Vaughters stated this year that Zabriskie was ready to win the Tour of California. A fourth place in the overall and third place in the time trial were good signs but based on the Zman’s quotes, he didn’t sound that thrilled. We’re going to find out in two weeks if Zabriskie owns a killer instinct.

For the perennially up and down Danielson, the Gila was a hopeful sign that his training was yielding results. Vaughters knows he has two cards to play in California or two guns to fire or two dice to roll or, yeah, you get the point. Options, options are good.

Noted French felon, Floyd Landis finished his Gila back in 21st place and third best in the OUCH-Bahati Foundation squad. Floyd will not be riding the Tour de France and sadly won’t be in California either since the team didn’t make the start list.

Thirteen days to go before the Tour of California begins in Nevada City. Twisted Spoke press credentials should be approved this week. We’ll look for Levi in the gold country — and great effort on that Gila homework.

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