MOUNT BALDY Levi Leipheimer of Santa Rosa has waited six years, but he finally got the first road stage win of his Amgen Tour of California career Saturday.
Riding the final two miles and steepest sections of the seventh stage with race leader and RadioShack teammate Chris Horner, Leipheimer claimed the 75.8-mile road race from Claremont in 3 hours, 33 minutes, 1 second.
Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) of the Netherlands was third, 43 seconds behind.
With the race lead he assumed after winning Stage 4 secure, Horner, of Bend, Ore., nudged Leipheimer ahead for the stage win at the highest elevation the race has reached, 7,930 feet.
Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo), fourth in the stage, is third overall, trailing by 2 minutes, 45 seconds.
Matthew Busche has been a pro cyclist for slightly more than one year. But the former cross country runner from Wisconsin surprisingly pulled teammates Horner and Leipheimer along as part of the RadioShack "train" at the front of the pack for several miles.
Jason McCartney is among pro cycling's most unheralded riders. He won a stage of the Tour of Spain in 2007, but at age 37, he's largely a savvy team rider who supports Horner and Leipheimer. McCartney won the Tour of California's best climber's jersey two years ago, and he'll likely claim the jersey again this year. He rode at the front of the lead group and was the first to crest the day's first two climbs, called "KOMs" or King of the Mountain designations.
Five riders, including multiple time cyclocross world title winner Lars Boom (Rabobank) of the Netherlands, didn't finish Stage 7. The starting field of the 144 on May 16 from Nevada City is now 126.
The concluding stage of the race will take the riders from Santa Clarita to Thousand Oaks, an 82.3-mile trek. The day will begin with a 13-mile flat stretch. The stage's climbs are category 4 (the least difficult), but they'll prove testy with riders lower in the overall standings likely willing to try to escape from the field.