VAIL, Colo. — Levi Leipheimer is three days away from winning his third stage race this year.
Leipheimer edged Christian Vande Velde to claim his second stage Thursday and regained the overall race lead after three stages of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
Leipheimer, the Butte, Mont. native who lives in Santa Rosa, Calif., and competes for RadioShack, completed the uphill 10-mile time trial in 25 minutes, 47.8 seconds.
Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo) from Lemont, Ill., was 0.58 seconds back. EPM-UNE's Rafael Infantino, from Colombia, was third _ about 4½ seconds behind the winner.
"I didn’t expect the time to be only half-second difference to Christian, but I did expect him to be my closest competitor," said Leipheimer, who last week won the Tour of Utah and last month was victorious in the Tour of Switzerland.
Leipheimer, who held the race lead for one day after winning stage 1, has an 11-second lead over Vande Velde with three stages of the inaugural race remaining.
"This was an uphill time trial that got harder as the course went on and we’re at altitude," said Leipheimer. "Even though I held back I was finished with 1k to go. I mean I was absolutely done. But the fans helped me pull through and knowing I had the best split time helped me. I wouldn’t trade this job for anything, but man, I hurt.”
Vande Velde, who began the stage two minutes ahead of Leipheimer, negotiated the course with a particularly fast start.
"I was really motivated," said Vande Velde, who finished 17th overall in the Tour de France last month and was part of the winning team. "I want to rip the pedals off from the start."
Tejay Van Garderen, the HTC-Highroad rider from Bozeman, Mont., finished sixth in the stage, 51 seconds behind. He dropped from first to third overall, 17 seconds behind Leipheimer.
Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo) of Durango, Colo., is fourth overall, trailing by 21 seconds. George Hincapie (BMC) of Greenville, S.C., who claimed the second stage, is fifth overall, trailing by 53 seconds.
Leipheimer, 37, and Vande Velde, 35, both multi-time Tour de France finishers, lost time in the rainy stage 2 in a technical downhill finish
Van Garderen, 23, bolted to front to claim stage 2, finished second and assumed the race lead. But the young riders faltered in the time trial and sat dejected for several minutes after stage 3.
Cadel Evans (BMC) of Australia, the reigning Tour de France titlist who's competing in the United States for the first time since 2006, finished ninth in the stage. Evans is seventh overall, trailing by 1 minute, 18 seconds.
The seven-day event continues Friday with the 82.8-mile Avon to Steamboat Springs stage 4 road race. The race concludes Sunday with the 70.9-mile Golden to Denver road race.
Please click on the banner above to check out more of Acura's 2012 moldel line-up.
Leader Jersey – Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team RadioShack
King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey – Walter Pedraza Morales (COL) of UNE-EPM
Sprint Jersey – Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team RadioShack
Best Young Rider’s Jersey – Tejay Van Garderen (USA) of HTC-Highroad
Most Aggressive Jersey – Andre Steensen (DEN) of Saxo Bank SunGard
Stage 3 Top-3
First – Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team RadioShack
Second – Christian Vande Velde (USA) of Garmin-Cervelo
Third – Rafael Infantino (COL) of UNE-EPM