(CNN) -- American cyclist Levi Leipheimer stepped up his bid for a Tour of California title hat-trick on Monday when he took a 24-second overall lead following the second stage.
Armstrong survived a 15-rider crash on the second stage and climbed to fourth in the overall standings.
Leipheimer finished runner-up to compatriot Thomas Peterson on the 186.6-kilometer stage from Sausalito to Santa Cruz that saw Astana team-mate Lance Armstrong caught up in a 15-rider crash in the wet conditions.
Seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong, back in the saddle after retiring in 2005, was okay to continue and climbed one rung to fourth overall after ending the stage in 13th place.
Peterson, best young rider overall in the 2006 race, sprinted to victory in five hours six minutes and 20 seconds closely followed by Leipheimer who made his move on the final climb on Bonny Doon.
"I had it in my head that I was going to try to win today," Leipheimer told the event Web site. "I looked around and saw that people were at their limit, but I felt really strong and inspired at that moment, so I went for it."
Leipheimer heads Australian Michael Rogers in the overall standings followed by David Zabriskie at 28 seconds and Armstrong (30).
"The crowds today and yesterday, in my hometown of Santa Rosa, were amazing," added Leipheimer.
"The conditions out there were bad, yet you still see thousands of die-hard fans just cheering us on; that definitely motivates us. We really appreciate the support of the fans, and this race is obviously doing really well."