“As expected, the lead group was reduced to a small cadre after the first category climb out of the Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument, with about 30 miles remaining. When the leaders hit the last climb, the front group was down to just Leipheimer, Armstrong, their Mellow Johnny’s teammate Chris Horner, Zajicek, Team B’s Chad Beyer and Bissell’s Burke Swindlehurst. Rock Racing’s Chris Baldwin and Tom Zirbel were close behind. Horner was providing most of the horsepower at the front, then yo-yo’d off the back of the group in the final miles.
“I didn’t take a single pull,” Zajicek said. “I was at my limit just staying on (the Mellow Johnny’s) wheels.”
Coming into the last kilometer, Leipheimer led Zajicek, Beyer and Armstrong. Leipheimer said he was trying to lead out Armstrong for the stage win, but was not as familiar with the finish as Zajicek, who has raced the Gila seven or eight times.
Beyer let a gap open in the last 300 meters and Armstrong had to come around to catch up with Leipheimer. Zajicek jumped around Leipheimer with 200 meters to go and took the win by 12 seconds ahead of Armstrong and Leipheimer, who sat up and crossed the line together. Beyer came in another 12 seconds back.
“Levi rode so hard,” Zajicek said. “Horner gave everything and then Levi tried to lead out Lance, but Lance cracked — I heard him yell with 200 meters to go, ‘go Levi go.’ I just stood up and gave it absolutely everything. I was falling apart, but …” he laughed.
Leipheimer and Armstrong said they misplayed the finish.”
Even more impressive is the fact that Zajicek has overcome two broken bones this season and continues training despite a diagnosis in 2008 of Crohn’s disease. Trismarter.com Sports Nutritionist Bill Nadeau checked-in with Phil in December for his input on training with Crohn’s. Check out Bill’s presentation here.
Congrats to Phil on this tremendous victory!