DENVER, Colo. (AP) – Strategically pedaling toward the front of the field to avoid crashes, American Levi Leipheimer won the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and his third stage race title this year with a seventh-place finish in Sunday’s sixth stage.
Daniel Oss, who rides for the Italian Liquigas team, won the 70.9-mile final stage of the 518-mile inaugural event in 2 hours, 27 minutes, 8 seconds.
Leipheimer, a Montana native who lives in Santa Rosa, Calif. and competes for RadioShack, assumed his second race lead with a slim victory in the stage 3 time trial and led the race for five of its seven days.
Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo) finished second overall, trailing by 11 seconds and Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) 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 15-year pro 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 trial 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 finale.
American Fred Rodriguez, a former three-time national road champion, 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, as well as brothers Andy and Frank Schleck, who respectively placed second and third last month in the Tour de France.
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.
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.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)