Levi hangs tough in yellow

Levi Leipheimer seems to be enjoying the podium view at the Dauphiné Libéré, and after Thursday's to

Levi Leipheimer seems to be enjoying the podium view at the Dauphiné Libéré, and after Thursday’s to

PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM Levi Leipheimer held off a flurry of early attacks by eventual winner Alexandre Vinokourov and then a late charge by Lance Armstrong to retain his grip on the race leader’s jersey on stage four of the Dauphin Libr between Tournon-sur-Rhone and the summit finish on Mont Ventoux. “It’s another day in the yellow jersey. I’m happy. I responded to the early attacks and when Vino put in a big effort, I was close to staying with him,” said Leipheimer. “I see Vino as the big challenger now. I will give it my maximum to win, but the next three days are very hard.” Many wondered if the Gerolsteiner man would have the legs to stave off the attacks on the fearsome Ventoux climb, but he responded with calm confidence when Vinokourov peeled away to chase the stage victory. Leipheimer found help in the form of Armstrong, Floyd Landis (Phonak) and Andrey Kashechkin (Credit Agricole). They formed a foursome over the final kilometres up the windy push to the summit, with Armstrong squirting away in the final metres to trim his margin to 21 seconds. “My team rode great today on the first 10km of the climb. I knew better than to try to go too hard and go over the limit at altitude,” the 31 year old said. “I found some help with Floyd and Lance, but the last 500 metres were hard. My legs just buckled.” Leipheimer seemed relieved to get up the gruelling climb with the jersey on his back. With three days left to go, he doesn’t want to think too far ahead. “I take this race now day-by-day. We eliminated Botero, but now we have Vino and Lance there,” Leipheimer continued. “I didn’t come to this race with the objective of winning,” he admitted. “I’m satisfied with how this race has gone, but don’t get me wrong – I’d love to win this race.” The Dauphin continues on Friday with the 219km-rollercoaster fifth stage that hits six rated climbs, but none harder than two category-two climbs midway through the route between Vaison-la-Romaine and Grenoble. Stage four: Tournon-sur-Rhone to Mont Ventoux 1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile 182km in 4.07.23 (44.14 kph) 2 Jose Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.06 3 Wim van Huffel (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 0.16 4 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 0.37 5 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.41 General classification after four stages 1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 15.19.29 2 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 0.21 3 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile 0.26 4 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.47 5 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Credit Agricole 2.00