STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — The overall standings of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge list Andy Schleck's name in an unusual place. The Luxembourg rider and three-time Tour de France runner-up is 34th overall and trails race leader Levi Leipheimer by nearly seven minutes.
Despite training for nearly two weeks at altitude, Schleck has had difficulty racing at altitude, which twice in the inaugural event has included exceeding 12,000 feet, several stages at more than 9,000 feet and the first stage at more than 10,000 feet.
But Schleck, who in July won stage 18, the Queen Stage of the Tour de France, high into the Alps, finally showcased his talents Saturday late in stage 5.
Schleck was part of a four-rider breakaway that rode at the front of most of the stage and built a five-minute lead. But with less than two miles left, Schleck went to the front alone.
"I don't know about the others, but I was at my limit to stay with the group," said Schleck, who also competed in the United States in May when he finished eighth overall at the Tour of California. "It wasn't just a breakaway that happened to get away. There were some really strong riders."
"We got four minutes, and we kind of took it easy at the front. But I didn't want it to go to a sprint. We still had 40 seconds with two kilometers to go. I wish the race would have been 500 meters shorter."
Schleck, whose career wins include a national time trial title and a victory in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the one-day classic, reiterated he expected a harder race, but couldn't adjust to the altitude.
"This race has been really, really special," said Schleck, who with brother Frank, and Cadel Evans of Australia, the reigning Tour de France titlist, gave the race a first — the Tour de France podium competing for the first time in the United States.
"The race is like a little bit of slow motion for me. If it had started at sea level and gone up, we would have gone maybe four or five minutes faster. It was definitely a hard race, but I expected the climbs to be harder. I think the climbs actually are less harder than in the European Alps, but it's the altitude that makes them hard."
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