Three-time champ Leipheimer 3rd
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Michael Rogers of Australia won the Tour of California on Sunday, overcoming several challenges in the final miles to capture a race overshadowed by Floyd Landis' accusations of doping by Lance Armstrong.
Rogers won by 9 seconds after holding the lead since Thursday. Despite not having a teammate in the attacking group to help, he repelled all challenges during the 83½-mile final stage on a hilly circuit in Ventura County while riding for the U.S.-based team of HTC-Columbia.
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He crossed the finish line giving a one-armed salute.
"They made me sweat until the end," Rogers said. "I really didn't expect this stage to be so hard."
American David Zabriskie of Garmin-Transitions, who led Stages 3 and 4, finished second overall, his third runner-up finish in the 5-year-old race.
"We were trying to get him to start covering attacks, but he was exceptionally strong," he said about Rogers.
Three-time champion Levi Leipheimer of the United States began the day third overall and ended up there for RadioShack. He overcame a flat rear tire near the base of one of the climbs.
"We gave it a good try," he said. "Unfortunately, it didn't happen. Am I disappointed? Not at all. I was the main animator of the race and I have to take pride in that."
The U.S.-based RadioShack team lost Armstrong after he crashed Thursday outside Visalia.
"That weakened our team," Leipheimer said.
That same day, Armstrong was accused of doping and helping others cheat by former teammate Landis, who showed up at Saturday's time trial in Los Angeles, where he hung out in a sponsor's tent. Armstrong returned to Texas, and tweeted that he was back on his bike Saturday. He angrily denied Landis' accusations.
Asked if he had anything to say to Landis, Leipheimer said, "I've thought about it, but I don't. I can't begin to understand what's going through his mind, but it doesn't make sense to me. I don't think it's worth trying to reason with him."
Landis, who won the inaugural Tour of California in 2006, wasn't invited to compete this year.
Rogers addressed the issue of doping in cycling, saying, "I'm getting a little bit sick of all this stuff."
He urged the sport "to get away from negativity" while at the same time admitting that "doping is killing our sport."
Leipheimer disagreed, saying, "I really believe cycling is much, much cleaner than in the past. It's fair and it's clean."
Zabriskie's teammate, Ryder Hesjedal of Canada, won the eighth and final stage, outsprinting a small group that included Americans George Hincapie of BMC and Chris Horner of RadioShack.
Hincapie called Landis' allegations against Armstrong and others "definitely very disappointing."
"Whoever wants to talk about something eight years old can waste their time," he said.
The riders sped along four 21-mile circuits through the cities of Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills, and up famed Mulholland Highway with its steep climbs and numerous switchbacks northwest of Los Angeles.
Zabriskie knew the route well because he uses it regularly for his training rides since moving to Southern California.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press