Timing his counter-attack perfectly on the final kicker – at high altitude – to the finish line, Levi Leipheimer (Radioshack) won stage 1 at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado. Leipheimer’s acceleration dropped everyone one giving a four second buffer on chaser Sergio Henao (Gobernacion Indeportes Antioquia). Franck Schleck (Leopard-Trek) took third, a further three seconds back.
With the 10-second time bonus on the finish line, Leipheimer is the new GC leader. Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo) is 11 seconds down and Tejay van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) is 17 seconds back. Tour de France winner Cadel Evans (BMC) sits in fourth also at 17 seconds down.
- Quiznos Leader Jersey – Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team RadioShack
- Nissan King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey – Eduard Alexander Beltran Suarez (COL) of UNE-EPM
- Smashburger Sprint Jersey – Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team RadioShack
- Sheets Best Young Rider’s Jersey – Tejay Van Garderen (USA) of HTC-Highroad
- Exergy Most Aggressive Jersey – Bradley White (USA) of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
Levi Leipheimer (Radioshack). “All of a sudden there were attacks. 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.”
About the altitude. “I grew up in Butte, Montana and it’s a mile high. I spent the last three weeks at altitude in Park City, Utah. I feel like I’m acclimated, ready to race hard here in Colorado.”
About the Queen Stage tomorrow. “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.”
On being confident for the rest of the race. “It can all change in one day, we’re going to take it day by day. We won the stage here and if that’s all I get out of this race, it’s a success but obviously I want to win the overall, that’s no secret but day by day.”
Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek). “I was surprised with my first experience, my first touch with this altitude. The only time I’ve been so high like I said was in a plane. I’m very surprised about my third place. Andy and myself were trading cards pretty good towards the end, I had the most punch so I played in the end. Okay Levi was stronger, he’s been racing in Utah, he’s been racing at altitude so being the first non-altitude rider or coming from sea level I’m pretty proud of it (third place).”
About the Queen Stage tomorrow.. “I’m happy about today. It was a good experience today why not (attack) tomorrow. We’ll see what happens, I think the first climb is on a dirty road, it’s going to be another interesting race tomorrow.”
Tejay van Garderen (HTC-Highroad). “I was surprised at how many (gaps) there were (at the end). I was thinking it was going to be something like Mur de Britannia where you see the GC guys ahead and maybe a little bit of a gap, but I was surprised at how big the gaps were. “
How were your legs at the finish at almost 9.000 ft? “They weren’t incredible, I hung in there pretty tough. I’m still holding on to a good GC spot but normally those kinds of finishes are really good for me but I was suffering.
About the Queen Stage tomorrow.. “I’m looking forwards to going into Aspen, it’s going to be a fun stage. I rode Independence Pass with George a few days ago, we were three hours into the ride and we were eating a ton and just both bonked. So I think, when you get up that high you just lose calories so quick. “
Cadel Evans (BMC). “Today, the strongest guy won. It was pretty simple, Levi sat quiet and waited and waited and then put it all on the line in the last 500 meters. Chapeau to him. I think he was well-prepared and riding well. It was really hard.”
About the altitude, “I’m going alright with the altitude thing, I’ve only been here for a week. When you dig really deep, the difficulty double and triple, and a final like that, it’s incredible. “
“My recovery has been pretty terrible. I came here with big ambitions, but not great expectations. There are guys who had time to prepare for it well, or recover from the Tour, or they didn’t ride the Tour. Obviously they’re going to be at greater advantage in the higher altitude so we’ll see what we can do against them.”
About the Queen Stage tomorrow.. “The guys who are well-adapted and acclimatized to the altitude are always going to be at an advantage. I’m just sort of taking it as it comes, so far not so bad.”