The 37-year-old finished in 31 hours 45 minutes 2 seconds. Cunego had worn the yellow jersey since Monday and finished four seconds behind him.
It was a major win for Leipheimer who has more often worked in support of other star riders on his team, including at both Team RadioShack and Team Astana, when he supported team mate Lance Armstrong and at Team Discovery when he has supported winner Alberto Contador competing in the nine stage Paris-Nice race.
The only other American to win the prestigious Swiss race was Lance Armstrong in 2001.
But Leipheimer has his own strong points as he showed in this race, notably in the mountains and in the time trials. He has had four top-ten finishes in the Tour de France, another major European stage race, including third overall in 2007.
Leipheimer’s traditional strength has been the U.S. based Tour of California that he won from 2007 to 2009. But at the 2011 event he had to support fellow teammate Chris Horner after Horner showed better results in the fourth stage into San Jose.
At the 2010 Tour de California, he faced an uphill battle against Dave Zabriskie of the Garmin-Transitions team and eventual winner Michael Rogers of HTC-Columbia. Leipheimer came in third overall, breaking his three-year victory streak.
Though Leipheimer placed third in the 2007 Tour de France, 31 seconds behind the winner, Alberto Contador. he has never won the overall placement in a Tour de France.
But Leipheimer’s Tour de Suisse win will set him up as a competitor to watch out for among other cyclists at the upcoming Tour de France in July, and with Armstrong and Contador out of the picture, his team Directeur Sportif Johan Bruyneel may give him the freedom to make a run for the podium.
If that comes to pass, Leipheimer will have powerful team mates to support him, among them Andreas Kloden who is an accomplished climber and one of the few team mates who could make it up the mountainous climbs with the likes of brothers Andy and Frank Schleck; and Chris Horner, Robbie Hunter, and Robbie McEwen, also mighty competitors in the long format French stage race.
In this Tour de Suisse, Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands came in third, 62 seconds behind the leader.
Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland won the ninth and final stage time trial, a 20-mile circuit around the northern city of Schaffhausen.
There was a near fatal crash at the Tour de Suisse, which occurred on Thursday involving Juan Mauricio Soler of the MovieStar team. According to a statement, Soler was improving, but is still in an induced coma and has a fractured skull and ankle.