Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer stood side by side on the podium after the final stage of the Tour of California, arms up in victory and content with a dominating victory, a possible showcase for Tour de France.
Horner and Leipheimer, teammates and co-leaders on Team RadioShack, executed flawless strategy and unrelenting drive up key mountain stages, to take first and second place in the race.
Horner, in particular, was a revelation in winning the race. In actuality, Horner has shown to be a strong rider, getting 10th in the Tour de France last year. However, it was Leipheimer who received all the attention and was given team leadership at the start of the race, primarily due to his three prior Tour of California wins.
Horner was able to assert his position and create a co-leadership on Stage 4 of the race on the climb up Sierra Road in San Jose. Horner's slight acceleration could not be matched by Leipheimer and Horner's stage win gave him a one minute advantage on Leipheimer and the rest of the field.
To his credit, Leipheimer who remained in second place after the stage, never relented, supporting his teammate Horner while maintaining his second overall position. Indeed, Leipheimer's strong time trial on Stage 6 cut Horner's lead in half, and solidified his second-place finish.
We're happy to have it over with and take home the victory, Leipheimer said after the race.
Regarding his teammate's win, Leipheimer added, Chris was the better rider, he was stronger, and he deserved it.
RadioShack's 1-2 finish was perhaps a prelude of a budding rivalry with last year's Tour de France runner-up Andy Schleck.
Schleck was dropped by Horner and Leipheimer on the climb up Mt. Baldy when the cyclist from Luxemburg couldn't keep up. Leipheimer took the stage win, with Horner close behind.
Although Schleck is heavily favored in this years' Tour de France, if Horner and Leipheimer can duplicate the success that they had at the Tour of California, Schleck will have to significantly improve to have any chance to get his first Tour de France title.
Stage 8 was won on a furious sprint to the line by HTC-Highroad's Matthew Goss, who outkicked Liquigas' Peter Sagan at the line for victory.
The stage featured an early breakaway on the rolling hills of Southern California between Santa Clarita and Thousand Oaks.
The sprint teams maintained control of the breakaway group throughout the entire 129 km (80 mile) route and Goss was able to ride to victory.
The 2012 Tour of California will start in Santa Rosa next year, located in the North Bay and home to Leipheimer.