Stage 7 – Post Race Quotes

Levi Leipheimer - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Levi Leipheimer (USA), General Classification Leader

On winning the 2008 Amgen Tour of California:
“I think this win is more special now because of the caliber of the field. The amount of stars that competed here is what makes this race so great. For me, this win is unbelievable because of the amount of cycling stars that we had here in California. The theme of this year’s race was the caliber of the peloton, so this win is really special for me. It’s not only a great race for me, but for the team as well because the competition was so good. You are only as good as the peloton, which was amazing this year, so it’s a really special win.”

“Winning the Amgen Tour of California has been a goal of mine from the beginning; no matter which races I compete in. This has always been a top priority for me. I’m happy to win here. I’m looking forward to going home and recovering and just enjoying my win.”

On his team:

“The team did a lot of work in this race. They were up front in horrific conditions for miles and miles, and hours and hours. They did very well, and I think we just proved that we are strong. We proved that Astana is one of the best teams in the world.”

On the difficulty of this year’s race:
“This year’s race was definitely the hardest of the three (Amgen Tour of California races), but to say it’s too difficult is not fair. The race has established itself as such an important race in the world of cycling; you can’t stunt its growth. You can’t try to make it easier just because it takes place in February (the start of the racing season). Because of the amount of stars in the peloton, it’s going to have to be a tough race. The weather certainly made it harder this year, but you can’t control that.”

On whether the Amgen Tour of California should become a part of the Pro Tour circuit:
“I think the race is now at the point where it could go up against the best races in the world. It’s already better than a lot of the races in Europe because of the caliber of cyclists. I say AEG should go for it; go up against some of these other races. I think the peloton will come back, and then we can make it bigger and longer.”

David Millar (GBR), Second Place, General Classification
Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30

On placing second in the 2008 Amgen Tour of California:
“I’m super happy. We knew we needed to hit the season strong in order to gain our place; it’s the reason I trained more than ever. I honestly didn’t expect to be at this level, so I’m over the moon.”

On the Amgen Tour of California:
“This is a prestigious race. All the early races are tough, but it’s the peloton that makes the decision on how easy or hard the race will be, and it was as hard as it was because of the level of riders. Thursday was really hard because of the weather, but this is a great race and it would be a shame to devalue it by making it easy.”

On his team:

“We wanted to have a fairly large impact, but the final outcome of the end game didn’t interest us as much; we just wanted to have a great time racing. The young Americans on this team blew me away this week. It’s an honor to be racing with such great cyclists. We found the right niche; we found our style of racing, and the fact that we have riders in the top-6 overall is a bonus and a testament that what we are doing is working.”

On the crowds in Pasadena:
“I was blown away by the amount of people who came out to see us race, especially because the weather was so bad. The crowds were very impressive throughout the race.”

Christian Vande Velde (USA), Third Place, General Classification
Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30

On placing third in the 2008 Amgen Tour of California:
“I’m very happy to be up on the podium with these two amazing cyclists (Leipheimer and Millar). My dream was to be on the podium and here I am.”

On his team:
“The team chemistry has been amazing this week. We had a lot of guys get sick and a couple of crashes, but our morale always stayed high. We raced the Prologue and we came out better than expected. Our whole team has been upbeat and positive; the young guys keep us alive.”

George Hincapie - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

George Hincapie (USA), First Place, Stage 7
High Road

On today’s race:
“As soon as we came into the circuits, everyone was attacking; the majority of the work that the breakaway did fell to me. My job was to keep the gap close. I was just trying to keep it together; it was up to me; my responsibility. I had a chance; it was a really tough finish. The last 30 kilometers were really difficult; I’m glad it worked out for me.”

“Tom Zirbel had a great ride, but you could see that when he was on the hills, we were able to get close. I was thinking that it would be unlikely for him to keep up the pace and keep us away. We had him in a good time gap the whole time, but he did a very aggressive ride.”

“Today was cold, but it wasn’t as bad as Thursday. As soon as we hit the circuit laps, the race was on and things got aggressive, so we warmed up pretty quickly.”

On the race overall:

“It has been tough. I was definitely struggling; I had a headache for three days after my crash. It was a tough week and we really wanted a win coming in to San Luis Obispo, but at the same time, our team put on a good show. We were out there for every stage in the race; we played a big part. I think that under the circumstances, we should be proud of what we did. I’m proud of my team; we ended this race as best we could.”

On the future of the Amgen Tour of California:
“I think the future of this race is limitless. The crowds are awesome. The race is really well organized and the European riders love it. I think the future of cycling is in races like this. We really enjoy races like this; we are proud to be a part of it and I’m proud to have won this stage.”

Rory Sutherland (AUS), Second Place, Stage 7
HealthNet Presented by Maxxis

On today’s race:
“I knew George (Hincapie) would win; I’m smart enough to know I can’t go up against him! I did the best I could today. I tried to pass along the responsibility to the other guys, so there wasn’t a whole lot more I could have done in the end. I had a fever this morning; so many guys here got sick, but look at how many riders finished the race, despite their conditions. By the time we got started today, we only had a couple of guys left, but our flag was still flying, so it was my responsibility to keep pushing and get our name out there. There is always a chance of pulling through; you just have to keep pushing until the end.”

On the race overall:

“This is the biggest race in the U.S. Being a smaller team with younger guys puts an extra strain on things, but you still put in the same effort every day; we raced hard every day. It is tough when you look at the caliber of teams here, and especially with all the guys that got sick. There isn’t a whole lot you can do when people get the flu.”

Robert Gesink (NED), Union Bank Best Young Rider Jersey Winner

On the race overall:
“For me, to win a stage in this year’s race is perfect and beautiful. I feel like I did good in general; my time trial improved. I’m quite happy to start my season in California. Last year was good for me, so hopefully I can do well this year as well.”

On his team:
“By the end of last year, I feel like we proved that we were a good team. This year, lots of things have changed and we picked up some new riders. I think it will be a good year for us again.”

Scott Nydam (USA), California Travel & Tourism King of the Mountains Winner
Team BMC

On securing the KOM jersey and his team’s win for Most Aggressive Team:
“I wrote down my three goals for the race, and one of those goals was to secure the KOM jersey. I’m very thankful to have retained the jersey. Again, it’s really quite humbling when you see the effort that my other teammates gave; this was truly a team effort; this is truly a team jersey. We accomplished our goals on a number of levels.”

Dominique Rollin (CAN), Herbalife Sprint Jersey Winner
Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team

On today’s race:
“It was tough today; cold, foggy and wet. But that’s fine; I’m happy to win this jersey.”

Tom Zirbel (USA), Fifth Place, Stage 7
Bissell Pro Cycling

On his lead during today’s breakaway:
“I actually used a lot energy to get into the break. The first move I tried with the High Road rider got brought back quickly. I was pretty motivated to get into the break today. I tried to do no more than anyone else; everyone was taking pulls. The pace wasn’t ballistic. Astana was happy to let the gap float around two minutes. Once we got to that point, we didn’t take it easy, but we didn’t throttle it. When I first went out initially, I thought I was doomed. I was just playing the game and trying to get a couple more laps up there in the front. There was a lot of horsepower back there; I thought it would be a sprint finish because there are so many top-quality sprinters, so I treated every lap like it was my last.”

On today’s course:
“The course was pretty straightforward; no real technical turns. I never felt unsafe at any point, but it’s always better to be in the break. Everyone was taking even turns and there wasn’t anyone complaining. This felt like a really short stage, so it went by really fast.”

On the weather conditions today:
“I think all of us should have learned our lesson after Stage 4. I packed everything I owned today, so I wore my Gortex jacket on the descent. It wasn’t as cold today, though. I was able to stay warm and I don’t think it was too big of an issue. When the attack started, we warmed back up.”

photo courtesy Vero Image

Mario Cipollini (ITA)
Rock Racing
On coming out of retirement to race in the 2008 Amgen Tour of California:
“It was a challenge for me to try and race again. I am very happy that I tried and that I am here. This race was very well organized. So much so that it seems like the race has been around for a long time.”

On his Rock Racing team:
“We have a very young team, but the project is very interesting. I hope that in the future something can happen with this team and be done in a very professional way.”

Jonathan Vaughters, Director, Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30
On the race overall:
“This is a neat way to start the season; it’s perfectly positioned in the racing calendar. The weather didn’t cooperate this year, but you can’t control that, so we hope the people come back! Looking at this race, if it’s going to become longer than it is, it will have to move on the calendar. If AEG chooses to do that, it will be a big challenge, but great for American cycling at the same time. I don’t think there is any way to improve this race, with the current length of eight days.”

On his team:
“Starting back in 2007, we went down the line with this project and started to look at every single thing we could do to gain an advantage. One of the things we picked up on was that it was important to make sure we brought the right riders together to work with them on a psychological level to get them together as a unit. The overall morale and spirit of our team is great; I’ve never seen anything like it in my in cycling career. I think we have a big advantage now, which we’ll need during the races over in Europe.”

Gavin Chilcott, Team Director, Team BMC
On his team:
“Everyone felt good during this race; we really had no bad luck. Everyone rode together and that’s what really explains the success of the week. Part of the process of developing the team and roster is to try and make sure we can make something happen at every stage.”

Jim Birrell, Race Director, Amgen Tour of California
On the race overall:
“We didn’t expect the torrential downpour that we encountered in a couple of stages, but we are really impressed with the results. We think we addressed a lot of our critics with the competitive level of this race. Today’s racing was phenomenal; my hat goes off to all the riders. The field that Kevin Livingston was able to put together was the best we’ve seen in the U.S., probably since 1986. The aggressiveness and attacks were really impressive. We look forward to building the 2009 tour!”

Andrew Messick, President, AEG Sports, presenter of the Amgen Tour of California
On the race overall:
“This has been a tremendous experience for all of us. The support from the 12 cities, the fans, local organizing committees and athletes has been extraordinary. Despite the weather, we’ve had a record number of fans – maybe close to 2 million. We feel like we’ve been embraced by the people that care about cycling, and it seems like more and more people discover cycling each year. From the athlete performance perspective, we’ve seen some outstanding performances. These riders rode sick and hurt, so to see the level of performance was really extraordinary.”

On the performance of the athletes and teams:
“Levi was amazing in this race. His moment of truth came in Solvang when he had to ride at the highest level possible, and he did. It has been extraordinary to see George ride so hard today, despite the horrific conditions. It was 38 degrees going over the pass; he raced with a tremendous amount of courage. To see the overall performances from Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30 and High Road, teams who share our same philosophy on the direction in which this sport needs to go in order to regain the trust of the media and public, is really satisfying for us. We are pretty happy right now.”

About the author: Thien Dinh

Thien Dinh gained most his cycling knowledge the old fashioned way, by immersing himself in the sport. From 2007 to early 2013, Thien served as RoadBikeReview Site Manager, riding daily while putting various cycling products through its paces. A native of California, Thien also enjoys tinkering with photography and discovering new music.

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