Fifteen years into his career, Levi Leipheimer may be riding at his career best. Rebounding from a disappointing result at the Tour de France, Leipheimer won his third stage race this season Sunday with an 11-second win at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
While Daniel Oss (Liquigas) of Italy won the 70.9-mile final stage of the 518-mile inaugural race from Golden that included six five-mile finishing circuits in 2 hours, 27 minutes and 8 seconds, Leipheimer placed seventh to complete the inaugural weeklong race in which he led twice for and for a total of five days.
Leipheimer, 37, a Montana native who lives in Santa Rosa, Calif., and rides for RadioShack, assumed his second race lead with a slim victory in the stage 3 time trial in Vail. He also won stage 1 with a burst from lead group in the uphill finish in Mt. Crest Butte to take his first race lead.
Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo) of Lemont, Ill., finished second overall. Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) of Bozeman, Mont., finished third, 17 seconds behind.
"The victory means so much to me, mainly because of the way we raced," said Leipheimer, who earlier this month won the six-day Tour of Utah and in June won the nine-day Tour of Switzerland, the biggest win of his career.
"It took some of the best form of my life to beat Christian and Tejay. I took the (leader's) jersey, I lost the jersey. I had to race one of the best time trials of my life to get it back and keep it. It took every ounces of energy I had."
Elia Viviani (Liquigas) of Italy, victorious in stages 4 and 5, was second in the final stage. American Fred Rodriguez (Exergy), a former three-time national road titlist from Emeryville, Ca., was third.
The event featured 17 teams and a starting field of 130 in Colorado Springs that included reigning Tour de France titlist Cadel Evans of Australia as well as brothers Andy and Frank Schleck (Leopard-Trek) of Luxembourg, who respectively placed second and third last month in the Tour de France.
There were 90 finishes after two-dozen riders were eliminated by time or didn't finish the final stage.
Evans, who hadn't competed in the United States since 2006, finished seventh overall, trailing by 1 minute, 18 seconds. Frank Schleck placed 13th overall with Andy Schleck 34th.
Leipheimer, who placed third in the 2007 Tour de France, was among four teammates predicted as top contenders in this year's Tour de France . None of the contenders found success, with Leipheimer the only finisher, 32nd overall and the lowest place of his seven Tour de France finishes in nine participations.
"For or five crashes will set you back, but I refocused and had some other goals like the Tour of Utah and here in Colorado," Leipheimer said. "I started thinking about it four five stages into the Tour de France when things started to go bad."
Leipheimer is also an accomplished mountain biker who won the 2010 Leadville 100, breaking the course record set by former teammate Lance Armstrong the previous year.
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First – Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team RadioShack
Second – Christian Vande Velde (USA) of Garmin-Cervelo
Third – Tejay Van Garderen (USA) of HTC-Highroad
Leader Jersey – Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team RadioShack
King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey – Rafael Montiel (COL) of Gobernacion de Antioquia
Sprint Jersey – Elia Viviani (ITA) of Liquigas Cannondale
Best Young Rider’s Jersey – Tejay Van Garderen (USA) of HTC-Highroad
Most Aggressive Jersey – Timothy Duggan (USA) of Liquigas-Cannondale
Stage 6 Top-3
First – Daniel Oss (ITA) of Liquigas-Cannondale
Second – Elia Viviani (ITA) of Liquigas-Cannondale
Third – “Fast” Freddie Rodriguez (USA) of Team Exergy