By Alasdair Fotheringham SCHAFFHAUSEN, Switzerland, June 19 (Reuters) - American Levi Leipheimer won the Tour of Switzerland by just four seconds on Sunday after getting the better of overnight leader Damiano Cunego in the final stage time trial.
The 37-year-old RadioShack rider, a former Tour de France and Tour of Spain podium finisher, was third in the 32.1 km time trial won by Swiss Fabian Cancellara. Cunego had led the race since Monday but slipped to second place overall after finishing out of the top 30 in the final stage.
"I got an email yesterday from Andy Hampsten, another American who won this race twice [in the 1980s], and I'm proud to follow in his footsteps. This is a big, big race," Leipheimer told reporters.
"It's been a very tough week, very mountainous and much harder than last year's race.
"There wasn't even one field [bunch] sprint, not even yesterday [Saturday] when everybody expected it."
Leipheimer, who began the day one second shy of two minutes behind Cunego, said he did not know he was in contention for victory until close to the finish.
"I didn't realize, all I knew was that in the final kilometre my sports director was yelling 'sprint, sprint'," he said.
"I could hear it was urgent, so I did my best, and I'm very pleased I did such a good race against the clock."
The American then watched tv screens as Cunego completed the course, before repeatedly raising both arms in the air and hugging a RadioShack team assistant when he realised he had won.
World Time Trial Champion Cancellara also showed fine form for the upcoming Tour de France with an emphatic time trial victory, nine seconds ahead of Germany's Andreas Kloden.
"My aims were to win both the prologue and the last stage and to manage to do that in such a difficult race like this year's Tour is very satisfying," Cancellara told reporters.
"I'll take it easy for a few days, then start getting ready for the Tour de France."