August 24: Team RadioShack’s Levi Leipheimer claimed the victory in the first stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (22-28 August). Leipheimer rode away from the opposition to take the 2.5 mi (4 K) uphill stage win on Mt. Crested Butte (CO). The Tour of Utah winner bested Colombian Sergio Henao with 4 seconds. Fränk Schleck was third, seven seconds behind. Prologue winner Patrick Gretsch lost one minute. Leipheimer takes the yellow jersey and leads now With 11 seconds to Chrstian Vande Velde.
“All of a sudden there were attacks,” Leipheimer (37) explained. “Andy Schleck went, Cadel Evans was up there and then my teammate Ivan Rovny did a fantastic job. I can’t say enough about him. We brought Andy Schleck back with just one kilometer to go. Rovny continued to pull really hard and I know he wanted to stop but I kept telling him to ‘Go! Go! Go!’ At 500 meters to go Frank Schleck put in a little attack and I followed him. I looked under my arm and I saw no one on my wheel. I knew it was rather early to go but I went for it anyway and it worked out. I’ve never won a stage like that with an explosive effort so in my old age I guess I’m learning some new tricks. I grew up in Butte, Montana and it’s a mile high plus I’ve spent the last three weeks at altitude in Park City, Utah. I feel like I’m acclimated and ready to race hard here in Colorado.”
For Levi Leipheimer and Team RadioShack the good results after the Tour de France are a nice compensation for the bad luck the team had in France. “Things weren’t really going my way the first week of the Tour de France. I had some crashes and I just didn’t feel that good. I started to think about racing in Utah and here at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and coming here to beautiful Crested Butte. The crowds are intense and we’re feeling the love. I have to say thank you.”
Stage 2 on Wednesday is 209.8km/130.3mi from Gunnison (CO) to Aspen (CO). The Queen stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge will include summiting two 12,000ft (almost 4000 meter) peaks in one day, including Cottonwood Pass and the grueling climb up Independence Pass.
“Having the yellow jersey makes it difficult for my teammates tomorrow but at the same time the Tour of Utah is fresh in their minds. They have that confidence in their legs. They know how to do it and we’re going to give it our best shot tomorrow but it will be hard. I expect the Colombians to be more aggressive and in general I expect a much more aggressive stage than today. Today everybody was a little bit afraid of the altitude. It takes a day to figure out what to do and I think tomorrow they will have it figured out. I did the Leadville Trail 100 last year and I remember how painful it was to race at that altitude. We’re not made to race that high, our bodies hate us for it. Everybody’s in for a lot of pain tomorrow.”
Result Stage 1: Salida – Mt. Crested Butte, 99.3 mi / 159.8 K
1 Levi Leipheimer (Team RadioShack) 4:29:22; 2 Sergio Luis Henao 00:04; 3 Fränk Schleck 00:07; 4 Cadel Evans; 5 Christian Vande Velde; 6 Tejay Van Garderen; 7 Janier Acevedo 00:10; 8 Robert Gesink; 9 Oscar Sevilla; 10 Tom Danielson
General Classification after Stage 1:
1 Levi Leipheimer (Team RadioShack) 4:37:47; 2 Christian Vande Velde 00:11; 3 Tejay Van Garderen 00:17; 4 Cadel Evans; 5 Robert Gesink 00:30; 6 Brent Bookwalter 00:34; 7 Rory Sutherland 00:35; 8 George Hincapie 00:37; 9 Tom Danielson; 10 Jeff Louder 00:41