Aug 26, 2011 1:47 AM by Lee Douglas/USA Cycling
VAIL - In a race against time, Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team RadioShack, a time trial specialist, came out on top after completing the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge individual time trial in 25 minutes and 47.08 seconds to take the stage and re-claim the overall lead Thursday. Lined with a wall of fans from start to finish, the route for the Stage 3 "race of truth" in Vail, Colo., took the riders from the heart of the city - Vail Village - on an uphill climb to the finish on Vail Pass Trail. Coming in second and third were Christian Vande Velde (USA) of Garmin-Cervelo with a time of 25 minutes and 47.66 seconds and Rafael Infantino (COL) of UNE-EPM with a time of 25 minutes and 51.52 seconds, respectively.
A familiar route for many cyclists, the previous course record of 25 minutes and 48 seconds was set by Ben Day at the 2008 Teva Games. However, that would not stick, as both Leipheimer and Vande Velde's times would be good enough to take over the title.
"You never expect a race to be that close," said Leipheimer. "I definitely expected Christian to be my strongest competitor. We're very motivated - I gave up the Quiznos Leader Jersey once and I don't really want to give it up again."
Under blue skies and beautiful weather, the riders left one by one from the start gate at the center of Vail Village. Jason McCartney (USA) of Team RadioShack kept the lead for the first hour of the day with a time of 27 minutes and 26 seconds until Dave Zabriskie (USA) of Garmin-Cervelo took over the lead and posted a time of 26 minutes and 46 seconds. Eventually, Prologue winner Jason Gretsch (GER) of HTC-Highroad slipped into second, 29 seconds behind Zabriskie, but was soon replaced by Jens Voigt (GER) of Leopard Trek.
As the stage wore on, Infantino took over the top spot, but was soon knocked out by Vande Velde who set a new time to beat. Ultimately, Leipheimer took the stage win, besting Vande Velde by only a fraction of a second.
"It was really heartbreaking," said Vande Velde. "I had this stage picked out a few weeks ago - I know this road and it suits my characteristics really well. It's hard, but I am happy with the way I'm riding and I'm happy to be back in contention to win the USA Pro Cycling Challenge."
Due to his performance today, Leipheimer will re-claim the overall lead with a total time of 10 hours, 30 minutes and 29 seconds and will wear the Quiznos Leader Jersey heading into Stage 4 of the race. Vande Velde is in second with a split of only 11 seconds, and Tejay Van Garderen (USA) of HTC-Highroad sits in third place, only 17 seconds behind Leipheimer.
"The time trial today in Vail challenged the cyclists and provided a great show for the wall-to-wall spectators that were out on the course," said Shawn Hunter, co-chairman and CEO of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. "With the overall results so close, we have a lot of great racing ahead of us. This is still anyone's race. Like the rest of the fans here in Colorado and around the world, I'm looking forward to seeing who is crowned champion of the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge on Sunday in Denver."
Leipheimer re-claimed the Quiznos Leader Jersey and retained the Smashburger Sprint Jersey. Van Garderen kept the Sheets Best Young Rider's Jersey for the fourth straight day. The Nissan King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey was awarded to Walter Pedraza Morales (COL) of UNE-EPM. And the Exergy Most Aggressive Jersey went to Andre Steensen (DEN) of Saxo Bank SunGard.
Friday, August 26 - Avon to Steamboat Springs (82.8 mi/138.4 km)
Start Time: 12:30 p.m. MT
Estimated Finish Time: 3:45 - 4:30 p.m. MT
Satellite Feed Time: 5:30 - 5:45 p.m. MT
After a punishing Queen Stage and an uphill time trial, these cyclists will be longing for an easier day. But the rolling terrain of Stage 4, with a net elevation change of 5,000 ft. from start to finish, will provide spectators with one of the more interesting and dramatic days of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Without significant climbs or high-speed descents, cyclists have numerous opportunities for breakaways, fighting for every mile of pavement and risking everything for King of the Mountain and sprint line competitions. The day starts in Avon at Benchmark and Lake St., travels along Colorado Route 131 through Wolcott and Oak Creek, following 83 miles of scenery to the finish line in downtown Steamboat Springs at 6th and Lincoln.