After a week of tight, exciting racing, the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge came to the finish in Denver with a frenetic final stage that saw the racing go down to the wire.
In the finale, RadioShack chased down a late attack from HTC-Highroad’s Tejay Van Garderen to preserve Levi Leipheimer’s lead and Italian Daniel Oss took the third stage win in as many days for his Liquigas-Cannondale team.
“This race was on so grand a scale,” said Leipheimer afterward. “The crowds, the media attention, the way we raced this week, the way the jersey changed hands; we just battled to the end, to the last corner.”
Racers from Europe and the US alike raved about the reception and the racing. “The atmosphere was unbelievable,” said Van Garderen, who took home the best young rider prize. “It was definitely the funnest race I’ve done and I look forward to coming back every year.”
The day got underway with an ascent of local training favorite Lookout Mountain, and the attacks went in earnest. Chief among them were the Colombian duo of Rafael Infantino (EPM-UNE) and Rafael Montiel (Gobernacion de Antioquia).
Montiel made a select group of overall contenders and took second in the points to Infantino, but the EPM rider’s move backfired when his teammate and KOM leader Walter Pedraza couldn’t hold the pace and lost the jersey.
As the pack re-grouped, a four-rider move got away with Lachlan Norris (HTC-Highroad), Javier Megias (Team Type 1), Oscar Sevilla (Gobernacion) and Matt Cooke (Exergy).
But like the finish on the Champs-Elysees, the six finishing circuits around Denver’s Civic Center Park were not ideal for a break to survive and they were caught with a lap to go. There, Van Garderen launched his ill-fated move with teammate Hayden Roulston, but Liquigas would have none of it.
With double-stage winner Elia Viviani leading it out this time, Oss took a commanding win, while Viviani held off Fred Rodriguez (Exergy) for second and padded his lead in the sprinters jersey competition. Leipheimer crossed in the main field to preserve his 11-second advantage over Garmin-Cervelo’s Christian Vande Velde.
Vande Velde lamented his “bridesmaids” over the week—two second-place stage finishes and second overall—but he did take some solace in Garmin winning the team competition.
“This is one of the best victories of my career,” said Leipheimer afterward. “It took some of the best form of my life to beat Christian and Garmin this week. The way I took the jersey and lost the jersey, and putting on one of my best performances ever to take it back, and the team rose to the occasion to defend it.
“We now have two huge races in America and I hope they continue because it’s fantastic for us as American cyclists to race on American soil,” he said.
Tour de France winner Cadel Evans, of Australia, placed seventh overall, 78 seconds behind Leipheimer in the overall and two seconds back in Sunday's final stage.
Stage 6 Results
1 OSS Daniel LIQ ITA B:10" 00"
2 VIVIANI Elia LIQ ITA B:06" ' '
3 RODRIGUEZ Fred XRG USA B:04" ' '
4 SUMMERHILL Daniel GRM USA ' '
5 PIPP Frank BPC USA 02"
6 FÖRSTER Robert UHC GER ' '
7 LEIPHEIMER Levi RSH USA ' '
8 HENAO MONTOYA Sergio GOB COL ' '
9 SUTHERLAND Rory UHC AUS ' '
10 LLOYD Daniel GRM GBR ' '
Final Overall Standings
1 LEIPHEIMER Levi RSH USA 20h00'24" 00"
2 VANDEVELDE Christian GRM USA 11"
3 VAN GARDEREN Tejay THR USA 17"
4 DANIELSON Tom GRM USA 21"
5 HINCAPIE George BMC USA 53"
6 INFANTINO ABREU Rafael EPM COL 01'14"
7 EVANS Cadel BMC AUS 01'18"
8 CLEMENT Stef RAB NED 01'42"
9 PIRES Bruno LEO POR 01'49"
10 SUTHERLAND Rory UHC AUS 01'50"
Original: Bicycling Magazine