Tour de San Luis: Stage 5 came down to a three rider battle on a brutal climb between Alberto Contador (Team Saxo Bank), Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Levi Leipheimer, and Daniel Diaz (SLS). The climb had pitches of 14.5 and 15.5 percent toward the finish line after averaging 8.5 percent for 6.4 km. Contador crossed the finish line first, with Diaz second and Leipheimer third. Contador easily moved into second place in general classification (GC) contention with his effort on the final climb. However — and perhaps more importantly for Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team — Contador was unable to do much damage in the GC lead for Leipheimer. Contador bested Diaz by two seconds, and Leipheimer by only five seconds. Leipheimer goes into Stage 6 on Saturday with the leader's jersey and a 46 second lead over Contador.
"The guys worked really hard today but they were rewarded by the first place in the GC for Levi," Sports Director Davide Bramati said. "Everybody did their job in the flat part of the race. In the climb (Sylvain) Chavanel helped Levi mantain a good rhythm. In the final, Contador attacked, and Levi had a good reaction and he was able to stay on the wheel of Contador. After today's stage Levi has a great chance to win the race. Tomorrow we will have to suffer to defend the jersey but the guys now are really motivated and ready to fight until the end."
There was a peloton split reported just around the king of the mountain (KOM) at the 153.3 km mark. Sylvain Chavanel earned third, unofficially, at the KOM.
A battle emerged between Contador, Leipheimer, and Diaz within the final few kilometers, and Leipheimer and Diaz were able to catch Contador after he attacked in the final kilometer. Contador managed to hold off the two just toward the finish line, however.
"It wasn't an easy stage the wind was really strong in the first part of the race and the guys did a great job to control the race." Leipheimer said. "The last climb was hard, 7 km of uphill with high percentage. We managed to control the race very well from the beginning. In the last climb Contador attacked at about 3 km to go. At that point I took the lead and I only thought about the GC. I'm really happy about our race today. Now we have to control the race two more days. Tomorrow it won't be easy, the stage is long and difficult especially at the beginning but we have to do it. We are really close to the victory. It will be an extra motivation for everybody."
Chavanel is now ninth in the GC, three minutes and 44 seconds back.
Photo copyright: Pablo Cersosimo