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OGDEN, Utah (VN) — It’s been a tough season for Levi Leipheimer.
Hit by a car while training in Spain in April, he was unable to defend his Amgen Tour of California title — indeed, Leipheimer barely made the start, recovering from a broken leg sustained when he was struck from behind by a car.
At the Tour de France, Leipheimer never did find his form and wound up 31st in a race he’s finished in the top 10 four times since 2002.
Still, Leipheimer remains hopeful for the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, which begins Tuesday, and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge — both races that he won last year.
“I’m looking forward to defending my titles at the Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado,” Leipheimer said through a team release. “As an American rider, it’s always a special experience to race in front of a home crowd and these two races have quickly become world class with beautiful, demanding courses and enthusiastic fans.”
He’ll have to contend with Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) who crashed out of the Tour and will come to Utah with a strong team, and Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan), among others.
Helping Leipheimer in Utah will be Martin and Peter Velits, Matthew Brammeier, Jeroen Hoorne and Francesco Chicci.
If Leipheimer is to fare well, the team must dig deep on Wednesday’s team time trial, where they will find themselves outmanned by Garmin-Sharp and RadioShack-Nissan.
Brian Holm, who will direct the team in Utah, said the team must be alert early.
“The race is very challenging,” Holm said. “Already on the first day it will be important to stay concentrated; there are more than 2,700 meters of altitude change spread out over 210km of racing.”
Holm also called the team time trial “essential” for the general classification, and looked to the race’s high peaks.
“Saturday will be the queen stage with more than 3,000 meters of altitude change and a high altitude arrival at Snowbird. We’ll also have to suffer on the last day with a short but very tense stage,” he said.