After three days where the climbers ruled, it’s the sprinters’ turn now at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, and Elia Viviani is hogging all the glory.
The Liquigas-Cannondale sprinter took a blazing-fast downhill sprint in Breckenridge for his second stage win in as many days, and a commanding lead in the sprinters competition. The win came again in front of massive crowds, which several racers, including Andy Schleck, said rivaled those at the Tour de France.
Levi Leipheimer successfully defended his overall lead on the last day that offered any real chance to unseat him from the lead.
“You can never win a race without a team, especially a team as strong as RadioShack, and today they were not just strong but really smart about the situation,” he said.
The situation was challenging.
An early break went on Rabbit Ears Pass as expected, but it was not the usual assortment of stage hunters. Early protagonist Laurens Ten Dam of Rabobank was quickly joined by Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) and two-time Giro d’Italia winner Ivan Basso (Liquigas), with Garmin-Cervelo’s Tom Peterson along as well.
A brief GC threat came from Gobernacion de Antioquia’s Janier Acevedo, just 2:35 down on the overall, but when a mechanical forced him out, the chase slackened a bit and the break was clear.
“I was on the limit to stay at the front,” said Schleck of the ascent straight out of Steamboat Springs. “It was not a break that went by chance; you could see it was strong guys out there.”
The quartet built up to a five-minute lead, and when they reached the Swan Mountain KOM, it looked like it might stay clear. Schleck attacked and got a 20-second gap at one point, but a headwind on the long false flat up to Breckenridge doomed him, and he was caught with 4km to go.
Then the counterattacks started. “We gambled too long and suddenly the peloton was there,” lamented Schleck, who admitted he’s no sprinter but still liked his chances against Ten Dam and Basso in the drag to the line. “With 2k to go we had 40 seconds and then the last turn they were coming. I wish it had been 500 meters shorter.”
Liquigas played the day perfect. With Basso in the break, there was no incentive to chase, but once the break was caught Davide Cimolai and Daniel Oss delivered another perfect leadout.
“In the final it was the perfect situation because we had Ivan in front and me and Oss for the sprint,” said Viviani.
He’ll get another shot tomorrow. There’s one KOM, which could see some fireworks between mountain points leader Walter Pedraza of EPM-UNE and Rafael Montiel of Gobernacion. But after that, expect it to come together for the six finishing circuits in downtown Denver. Viviani will certainly be going for the hat trick.
Stage 5 Results
1 VIVIANI Elia LIQ ITA B:10" 00"
2 CASTANEDA Jaime EPM COL B:06" ' '
3 OSS Daniel LIQ ITA B:04" ' '
4 VAN WINDEN Dennis RAB NED ' '
5 LOUDER Jeffry BMC USA ' '
6 VAN GARDEREN Tejay THR USA ' '
7 STEENSEN André SBS DEN ' '
8 MONTIEL Rafael Anibal GOB COL ' '
9 LUDVIGSSON Tobias SKS SWE ' '
10 VANDEVELDE Christian GRM USA ' '
Overall Standings1 LEIPHEIMER Levi RSH USA 17h33'14" 00"
2 VANDEVELDE Christian GRM USA 17h33'25" 11"
3 VAN GARDEREN Tejay THR USA 17h33'31" 17"
4 DANIELSON Tom GRM USA 17h33'35" 21"
5 HINCAPIE George BMC USA 17h34'07" 53"
6 INFANTINO ABREU Rafael EPM COL 17h34'28" 01'14"
7 EVANS Cadel BMC AUS 17h34'32" 01'18"
8 CLEMENT Stef RAB NED 17h34'56" 01'42"
9 PIRES Bruno LEO POR 17h35'03" 01'49"
10 SUTHERLAND Rory UHC AUS 17h35'04" 01'50"
Credit: Bicycling Magazine