Despite a few anxious laps during the climactic Stage 7, wire-to-wire overall race leader Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) found just enough energy to fend off a cheeky breakaway from Danny Pate (Slipstream) and win the 2007 Amgen Tour of California (TOC) .
A seven-man group including Pate broke out from the main peloton very early in the race and worked a beautiful pace line to stretch the lead out to 2'50". Pate came into the day 2'35" behind Leipheimer in the overall classification, so for a while he was the virtual tour leader.
In Stage 7, Discovery Channel once again protected their leader Levi Leipheimer, escorting him all the way to the top podium spot in the 2007 Tour of California. Photo from CorVos -- PezCycling News.
The peloton was never really worried, but Pate and his breakaway mates held the virtual tour lead long enough to make the main group edgy, with teams looking to protect their overall team classification standings and of course their sprinters. With the most to protect, Discovery Channel, tired from the heavy pace of Stage 6 and without their big pacemaker Georgie Hincapie, still had the power to stretch the peloton into a long thin strip of pain. Soon others with a horse in the race like CSC, BMC, and Credit Agricole came to the front, and Pate's moment in the sun inevitably turned overcast.
At the finish, it was Ivan Dominguez (Toyota-United) sitting in on the leadouts of the big sprinters and then slipping up through the middle to take yet another photo finish. The Toyota squad is a virtual sprinter's factory. Last year, their man Juan Jose Haedo (CSC) took two TOC stages. Haedo parlayed his Toyota success into a spot on the world's best squad, CSC, for which he has picked up two more skins in this year's Tour. Must be something in that Toyota water.
After eight days and more than 1000 kilometers of racing, Leipheimer topped second place finisher Jens Voigt (CSC) by a scant 21 seconds. The other classifications were equally close. In the King of the Mountains contest, Christophe Laurent (Credit Agricole) shaved Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step-Innergetic) by just three points, the same margin by which Haedo clipped Graeme Brown (Rabbobank) for the Sprint championship. Robert Gesink (Rabbobank) took the Best Young Rider classification by 41 seconds over Matthew Lloyd (Predictor Lotto). Only the Team classification was a blowout, with, hmm, guess who? CSC topping Discovery Channel by 2'19".