ERASE ALL DOUBTS. He rode the time trial of his life. Erase all doubts that Levi Leipheimer (in photo) was never a real contender for the Yellow Jersey. Stop all talk about him not having a killer instinct. Strike the word "mild" from your association with "Leipheimer." Stand down all you doubters. Behold the unheralded, quiet American who just rode the 4th fastest time trial in the history of the Tour de France.
CALIFORNIA DREAMIN'. Going into this penultimate stage, I was thinking primarily about how Cadel Evans would likely overtake Alberto Contador for the Yellow Jersey by just a few seconds. I was not thinking that Levi Leipheimer would ride a significantly faster time trial than the Australian. I was not thinking he could erase a 2-minute 49-second gap between himself and Contador. But the Californian stole the show. What an inspired 55.5-kilometer ride clocked at an average of 32.99 mph.
1-2-3 FINISH. Result? Levi wins his first stage of the Tour de France and solidifies an honored place on the podium in Paris tomorrow. Contador (in photo) lost time to both Evans and Leipheimer, but holds on to a 23-second lead over Evans and a 31-second edge over Leipheimer. With this ride, Leipheimer came within 8 seconds of moving into second place and just over half a minute from the Yellow Jersey. Incredible!
CLOSEST EVER TdF FINISH. If neither Evans (in photo) nor Leipheimer pull a fast one tomorrow, it will be the closest 1-2-3 finish in the history of the Tour de France. If the Australian or American decide to contest for the tour championship in Stage 20, the final times could be even closer. Levi won't challenge, for sure; he won't try to upstage his 24-year old Discovery Channel teammate. But if I were in Cadel Evans' shoes, just 23 seconds out of the championship... it may not be just the sprinters who are jockeying for points on the Champs-Elysees.
PARIS ON THE HORIZON. For all the disappointment due to doping and deception in this edition of the Tour de France, today did not disappoint. All 141 cyclists rode themselves that much closer to Paris. Some, like Leipheimer, left everything they had on the road--a complete kenosis. Leipheimer may not stand at the pinacle of the podium in Paris, but he proved today that he belongs on the podium--no doubt about it.