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Leipheimer lifts Astana after Armstrong exit

  • Story Highlights
  • American Levi Leipheimer won the second stage of the Tour of Castilla y Leon
  • Leipheimer's success boosted Astana after Lance Armstrong's injury exit
  • Armstrong has returned to America for surgery after breaking his collarbone
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(CNN) -- Lance Armstrong flew home for surgery on his broken collarbone on Tuesday as Astana teammate and fellow American Levi Leipheimer won the second stage of the Tour of Castilla y Leon.

Leipheimer, above, gave Astana a lift after Armstrong's exit by winning the second stage in Spain.

Leipheimer, above, gave Astana a lift after Armstrong's exit by winning the second stage in Spain.

Spaniard Alberto Contador, also Astana, came second in the individual time trial in Palencia, 16 seconds behind Leipheimer who covered the 28.2 kilometers in 33 minutes, 17.78 seconds.

Leipheimer takes over the top spot in the overall standings -- and if twice winner Contador is proved right that is where he will stay.

Contador, one of the pre-race favorites after taking the last two editions, predicted before the race that the event would be decided in Palencia.

"I'm here with a great will to race but this edition seems very difficult because it will be decided in the 28km time trial," said the 2007 Tour de France champion.

Armstrong was injured when he was caught up in a multi-rider spill on Monday, but Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel refuses to write him off for the season.

The 37-year-old returned to the sport at the start of the year after an absence of more than three years and Bruyneel believes the Texan will recover in time to bid for his eighth Tour de France title in July.

"A broken collarbone in March does not change anything as regards the Tour de France," Bruyneel told reporters before the start of Tuesday's stage.

"For the moment, we are sticking largely with the same schedule. He was going to be leaving for the US after this race and then come back for the Giro...."

Armstrong has said the Giro will be "problematic" and Bruyneel admitted the injury "changes the way we approach the season from now until the Tour de France."

Bruyneel said the accident could have been much worse and revealed that Armstrong's "head hit the ground quite hard and his helmet was broken."

He added: "A broken collarbone is not a bad outcome given the circumstances. It's one of the breaks that takes least time to heal."

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