Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) sewed up his overall victory in the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge on Sunday as Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale) won the final stage before a packed house in downtown Denver.
The 73.8-mile sixth stage from Golden to the Mile High City looped to the north and then back through downtown Golden, up Lookout Mountain, past Buffalo Bill’s grave, then back around through Golden once more before heading to downtown Denver for a spectator-lined circuit around the Colorado State Capitol and Civic Center Park.
A huge break early on drew out way too much horsepower — including race leader Leipheimer, best young rider Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad), Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo) and Tour de France champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) — and it was brought back, giving a smaller group a chance to get away.
Oscar Sevilla (Gobernacion), Javier Megias (Team Type 1), Lachlan Norris (HTC-Highroad) and Matt Cooke (Exergy) had an advantage of more than two minutes as they led the USAPCC into Denver for the first of six circuits. Sevilla was best-placed in the break, sitting 19th at 3:16.
Liquigas-Cannondale took charge of the chase, with an assist from RadioShack and Garmin. But the gap remained pegged at two minutes as hares and hounds raced around the Capitol and past the original Quiznos store, which opened for business at 1275 Grant Street in 1981.
With four laps to go the gap was down to 1:45 and falling as the peloton drove along at more than 30 mph. Evans, seventh overall at 1:18, had a mechanical and was forced to chase back on with the help of his team. Two-time Giro d’Italia champ Ivan Basso, meanwhile, was on the front and cranking out the watts on behalf of Liquigas teammate Elia Viviani, already the winner of two USAPCC stages.
A lap later the chase was just 25 seconds behind and Megias shot away up the left side of the road, followed by Norris. As for Cooke and Sevilla, they were soon back in the bunch.
With two laps to go Megias was clinging to 25 seconds’ advantage as Norris was pegged in no-man’s land with UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis leading the bunch for sprinter Robert Förster.
The ruthless chase soon enveloped Norris and only Megias remained out front. But not for long — as the peloton prepared for the bell lap, it was gruppo compatto.
Then HTC’s Hayden Roulston attacked with just over five miles to go. The Kiwi pursuiter led the way into the bell lap, chased and eventually joined by Oscar Alvarez (Gobernacion De Antioquia-Indeportes Antiquia) and Ryan Roth (Spidertech-C10).
The trio quickly took 12 seconds over the peloton — Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) wearing the orange jersey of the most aggressive rider, tried and failed to bridge — but with a mile to race the bunch was closing in fast.
Roth attacked the break as the catch came, but didn’t seem committed — he kept looking over his shoulder, and soon was pulled back. Then Van Garderen tried an acceleration and Leipheimer was on him straight away.
Headed for the line Liquigas was back at the front, with Oss leading out Viviani as he had twice before — but the thoroughbred double stage winner generously awarded the victory to his workhorse, settling for second ahead of Fred Rodriguez (Exergy).
VeloNews online editor at large Patrick O’Grady contributed to this report. Stay tuned for an expanded report, photos, video, complete results and more from Denver.