STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Elia Viviani of Italy bolted to the front in the final yards to win Stage 4 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge on Friday, while American Levi Leipheimer maintained his 11-second overall lead.
Viviani, 22, a second-year pro who rides for the Italian Liquigas team, used a centerline sprint to complete the 82.3-mile Avon to Steamboat Springs road race in 2 hours, 58 minutes and 14 seconds.
“Today was a good course for my sprint,” said Viviani, who had had four victories in his 2010 debut season.
Viviani got to the front following a lead-out from teammate Daniel Oss, who raised his arms behind the line to acknowledge his countryman’s win.
Leipheimer regained the overall lead Thursday when he claimed his second stage of the race in the 10-mile, uphill Vail Time Trial.
Leipheimer (BMC) finished 24th Friday.
“Tomorrow is a big obstacle on the way to Denver,” said Leipheimer, now two days from his third stage race title of the season. “We just have to take it day to day.”
Michael MHorkHov (Saxo Bank) of Denmark finished second in the stage, with Dutchman Kenny Robert Van Hummel (Skil-Shimano) third.
The top 10 overall riders in the seven-day race all finished in the main field with 93 of the remaining 121 riders credited with the same time.
“We have an 11-second advantage,” said Leipheimer, who last week claimed the Tour of Utah for the second straight year and in June won the Tour of Switzerland. “In my opinion, it’s harder to take the lead than it is to defend. We took it and now we’ll defend it. It’s all about defense.”
Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo), runner-up to Leipheimer in Stage 3, finished 21st in the stage and is second overall.
Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) is third overall, trailing by 17 seconds.
Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo) is fourth overall, 21 seconds behind, with George Hincapie (BMC) in fifth — completing a top-five sweep for U.S. riders — 53 seconds behind.
Cadel Evans (BMC) of Australia, the reigning Tour de France champion, placed 27th in the stage and remained seventh overall, 1:18 behind.
The inaugural event continues Saturday with the 105.8-mile Steamboat Springs to Breckenridge Stage 5 road race.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)