Levi Leipheimer wins Vail ITT, regains lead in 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge

Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) regained the overall lead of the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Classic on Thursday after winning the 10-mile Vail individual time trial.

2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge, stage 3. Vail time trial start panorama. Photo: Brad Kaminski © VeloNews
Vail time trial start panorama. Photo: Brad Kaminski © VeloNews

VAIL, Colo. (VN) — Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) regained the overall lead of the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Classic on Thursday after winning the 10-mile Vail individual time trial by a fraction of a second.

Leipheimer took the victory in 25:47, just a half-second ahead of runner-up Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervélo). Rafael Infantino (Epm-Une) finished third at four seconds slower.

Leipheimer now leads Vande Velde by 11 seconds on GC with overnight race leader Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) third at 17 seconds.

Leipheimer and Vande Velde show up the youngsters

Leipheimer admitted he was frustrated to lose time on the descent of Independence Pass Wednesday, which led to him ceding his leader’s jersey to Van Garderen. Van Garderen’s outspoken comments at the post-race news conference Wednesday also motivated the RadioShack man.

“Tejay made a good point: you have to be able to descend well and climb well. I made a mistake (Wednesday) by not taking a rain jacket at the top. When the rain came in, I was too cold to control the bike,” he said.

Leipheimer said he considered the stage a tie between himself and Vande Velde. “We are good friends, we are neighbors in Spain, we’ve been racing together a long time. Today it was the old guys showing we’ve still got it,” he said with a smile.

An emotional ride for Vande Velde

Vande Velde, who also was second in the prologue Monday, said he was trying to resist the temptation to second guess his ride or his equipment choice for the time trial, which started flat before ramping up in the final kilometers. Leipheimer rode a time trial bike and was 17 seconds ahead at the midpoint time check. Vande Velde, on a road bike with clip-on aero bars, made up 16 and a half of those seconds in the second half.

“Who knows, if I had put on an aero water bottle or thrown my bike across the line I could have made up that half second … if I had touched the brakes a little less in one of the corners or pedaled harder at the finish … you could play coulda-shoulda-woulda all day long,” he said.

More importantly for Vande Velde, he said he was happy to be back on good form after two frustrating seasons.

“I haven’t felt like this since 2008 or maybe the spring of 2009. It wasn’t until I started riding at the level I’m capable of again that I’ve realized how much I’ve suffered the last couple of years.”

Vande Velde could feel he had good form coming into the Colorado race and he said he was frustrated when he wasn’t mentioned as one of the favorites here. He also was frustrated when he, like Leipheimer, lost time Wednesday on the descent of Independence Pass.

The huge crowd at the Vail Village start, pounding on the fencing and cheering him on, contributed to the emotion. By the time he got to the starting ramp, he said he was “ready to rip the pedals off.”

Next up

Stage 4, from Avon to Steamboat Springs, is a rolling ride across the high plains, where the wind is likely to be a bigger obstacle than any hills. There are 10, 6, and 4-second time bonuses on offer at the finish. Stage 5, from Steamboat to Breckenridge, is similar except for a short tough climb that comes just a few miles from the finish.

Although the big mountains are done with in this tour, Leipheimer said the coming days are “daunting.”

“There are time bonuses, they are always dangerous. There’s wind. There’s still some climbing. There are crashes — yesterday the crash was right at my right shoulder, I was very lucky.”

Despite the daunting task, Leipheimer said he’s determined to hold the jersey to the finish in Denver on Sunday. “I gave up the jersey once and I’m telling you, I don’t really want to give it up again.”

Quick results

Stage 3

  • 1. Levi Leipheimer, Team RadioShack, 25:47.08
  • 2. Christian Vandevelde, Garmin-Cervélo, s.t.
  • 3. Rafael Infantino Abreu, Epm-Une, at 0:04
  • 4. Tom Danielson, Garmin-Cervélo, at 0:33
  • 5. Stef Clement, Rabobank Cycling Team, at 0:40


  • 1. Levi Leipheimer, Team RadioShack, 10:30:29
  • 2. Christian Vandevelde, Garmin-Cervélo, at 0:11
  • 3. Tejay Van Garderen, HTC-Highroad, at 0:17
  • 4. Tom Danielson, Garmin-Cervélo, at 0:21
  • 5. George Hincapie, BMC Racing Team, at 0:53

Complete results