American Levi Leipheimer (Astana) took the leader's golden jersey after he and breakaway companion Robert Gesink (Rabobank) dropped everyone convincingly on the Sierra Road climb; Gesink won Stage three of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California into San Jose Wednesday afternoon.
Defending tour champion Leipheimer got to work on today's first real climbing stage -- a tough parcours with five rated climbs, including the hors category Mount Hamilton and tough Sierra Road climbs. Like the last two years Leipheimer was alone with Gesink over the top of Sierra Road, just 18 miles from the finish in downtown San Jose.
The morning's leader Tyler Farrar (Slipstream-Chipotle) was suffering from an intestinal virus, and was unable to continue after the first two mountains, and abandoned the race while wearing the yellow jersey.
"It was a hard stage... hard stage," an out-of-breath Leipheimer told Cyclingnews.com just after rolling to a stop. "They told us we had over a minute but I had my doubts because I had been in this position before. It's a long way from the top -- we need a mountaintop finish in this race! Robert [Gesink] was amazing. I predicted last night that he would be my ally. I even spoke to him last night and it went to perfection. We put a lot into it and twelve seconds... it was worth it, I'll take that.
Team High Road's George Hincapie escaped for several miles Wednesday
"At one moment he and I had a teammate and I thought it best to keep it together," Leipheimer said. "I tried to tell him that but he was really interested in the stage win, so I understand why he hit the gas. I was content just to follow, he was going really good and it had been a really hard stage. Mount Hamilton was a real climb. It was awesome."
When asked if he thinks the tour is won yet, Leipheimer replied: "Definitely not. It's a step in the right direction but we have a long ways to go. I put a lot of effort into today so I hope I recover."