It was a huge week for Omega Pharma-Quick Step in South America as the Belgian team secured overall victory with Levi Leipheimer in the season’s first showdown.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Tom Boonen kicked to victory in the seventh and final stage in a torrid heat with temperatures hitting 45 degrees C to cap a strong showing by the Belgian outfit.
The team won four stages and the GC, including two wins by Francesco Chicchi and a time trial stage and the overall for Leipheimer.
“Tom’s victory is classic icing on the cake,” said sport director Davide Bramati. “We won 4 out of 7 stages with 3 different riders and Levi captured the general classification. The team was a shining example of professionalism; we could not have hoped for a better week.”
Leipheimer fended off attacks by Alberto Contador, who won two mountain stages but lost more than 1 minute to the American in the decisive time trial stage mid-race.
The win bodes well for Leipheimer, who will captain the team this year in all of its major stage-race dates throughout the year. The veteran American picks up where he left off last year, when he won the overall titles at the Tour de Suisse in Europe and in Colorado and Utah in the United States.
“I’m really happy, it was a super fantastic experience to be a part of this team in this enterprise,” Leipheimer said. “I knew I was in good shape. In the weeks before the race I trained really well on my hometown roads. I followed an approach similar to the one that has won me the Tour of California three times. My next race will be the Paris-Nice. Now I need to get away for a few days and recuperate some energy. My calendar isn’t race-heavy. It was a choice we made to try to be in top condition for the events I am targeting.”
Boonen claims his first since Ghent-Wevelgem last year and outkicked Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini), with Max Richeze (Argentina) crossing the line third.
“I’m very happy, I really wanted to win,” Boonen said. “Today’s is not the victory of one rider, but of six team players who once again have proved their mettle. Initially we just let the race take its course. It’s a nice feeling to taste victory again. I hope this can be the first in a series of high level performances and that this Tour de San Luis really serves as an example for all the guys on our team.”
Contador, meanwhile, leaves Argentina with two surprise stage wins and second place overall, but is facing an uncertain future.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport is expected to finally release its decision in his long-running clenbuterol case this week.