PARIS -- Levi Leipheimer claimed the yellow jersey when he won the 171.6-kilometer fourth stage of the Tour of Germany on Thursday.
The Gerolsteiner rider beat teammate Georg Totschnig on the
spectacular mountaintop finish on the 2,670 meter
Rettenbachferner in Austria to also claim the polka-dot jersey
for the leading climber.
Pre-race favourite Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) finished 55
seconds down in third position.
"It's a great victory for team Gerolsteiner -- the whole
team really did a great job," the 31-year-old Leipheimer said.
"I must admit I feel a little bit bad for Georg as this is
his home country, but I wanted to go for the maximum time over
Jan Ullrich," added the American who finished sixth in this
year's Tour de France.
Ullrich said he was satisfied with his performance.
"I'm very happy with how things went today as I was ill for
a week before the Tour of Germany and couldn't train," said the
1997 Tour de France winner. "I didn't expect to finish within
the top three today."
With another mountaintop finish on Sunday, as well as a
penultimate stage time trial over 31.7 kilometers on Monday, Ullrich remains in contention for overall victory.
The two Gerolsteiner riders proved the strongest on the
relentless climb up Rettenbachferner, dropping a group which
included Australian Cadel Evans, Slovenian Tadej Valjavec
and Italian Marco Fertonani with 10 kilometers left.
Italian Fabrizio Guidi (Phonak) did not start because of a
positive dope test at the HEW Cyclassics in Hamburg which led him to be suspended by his team.
Friday's 219.2-kilometer stage five from Solden to Friedrichshafen will include the Arlbergpass at an altitude of 1,793 meters before finishing on the shores of Lake Constance in Germany.