DENVER (VN) — Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp) won the 2012 USA Pro Challenge on Sunday as Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing Team) claimed the final stage, an individual time trial in downtown Denver.
The final 9.5-mile stage from Civic Center Park to City Park and back again had been billed as a showdown between race leader Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and third-placed Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team).
But it was Vande Velde, sitting second overall, who pulled off the ride of the day.
Phinney turned the fastest time — he blazed the course in 17 minutes and 25 seconds for an average speed of 32.7 mph. And “blazed” is not a figure of speech, as temperatures reached the 90s downtown.
“I’m beyond excited to have won today,” Phinney said. “It’s a big goal of mine.”
Van Garderen covered the course in 17:44, good for second on the day at that moment. But Vande Velde followed in 17:35, bumped him into third on the day, and put paid to the BMC rider’s hopes of regaining the yellow jersey.
To keep that jersey, Leipheimer had to finish in 17:44 — but he didn’t hit the line until 18:08, good only for ninth on the day. And that gave the overall to Vande Velde.
“I was very excited yesterday when I took time out of Tejay and stayed close to Levi,” said a clearly excited Vande Velde. “Our team’s animated from Tom rippin’ it through his alma mater. It’s been an amazing race for Garmin-Sharp and I’m excited to finally put the cherry on top with yellow in the race.”
The man he deposed said Vande Velde “had a phenomenal day” and was a worthy winner.
“I actually felt really good, my legs were good,” said Leipheimer. ” I did sort of drop my chain there in one corner and I had a moment of panic, but it miraculously fell back on, so I don’t think I lost much time there.
“I think I got down to a really good climbing weight, but when it comes to 15k flat out of rough city streets with lots of corners, I don’t think I have what it takes. Christian had a phenomenal day today. I deserved third, Christian deserved first, and Tejay deserved second.”
Van Garderen, who slipped to second overall at 21 seconds with Leipheimer third at 24 seconds, said he was proud of his team for putting up a good fight and tipped his hat to Vande Velde.
“I didn’t underestimate Christian, especially the way Garmin was riding, they were really aggressive,” he said. ”He says he always comes good out of the Tour and this year he did the Giro, the Tour, and Utah, so if he did a grand tour after this he could probably win it.”
• The Denver time trial was the last race of his career for BMC’s George Hincapie, who on Monday will awaken to his first day as a retiree after 19 years of professional cycling. He finished in 18:28, waving to the crowd as he rolled across the line.
• Jens Voigt (Radio-Shack-Nissan) took the final mountains jersey. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) held onto the green sprint jersey. Joe Dombrowski (Bontrager-Livestrong) finished the race as its best young rider. Tom Danielson pulled on the orange-and-white-striped jersey of the most aggressive rider. And RadioShack-Nissan took home the overall team win.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from the final stage of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge.