26-Aug-2012: Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Levi Leipheimer, defending USA Pro Challenge champion, left the start house ready to protect his GC lead in his yellow skinsuit for the final 15.3km ITT on Sunday.
Leipheimer came into the stage leading Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp) by 9″, and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) by 21″. It would take monster performances from both riders to take the jersey off his back.
Both riders had such performances on Sunday. Vande Velde finished 2nd in the stage, just 10″ back from stage winner Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing Team). Tejay van Garderen finished 19″ back in 3rd.
Leipheimer, who gave it his all, finished 9th (+43″). The performance of Vande Velde was enough to win the overall at USA Pro Challenge, and van Garderen 2nd. Leipheimer maintained a place on the podium, finishing 3rd overall.
“I actually felt good and my legs were good,” Leipheimer said after the race. “I dropped my chain there on the corner and had a moment of panic. I thought it had come off for sure, maybe jammed. But it miraculously came back on. I don’t think I lost much time there. I got down to a really good climbing weight for this race, but when it comes to a 15 kilometers flat race out on city streets, with a lot of corners, I just don’t have it compared to going up Flagstaff. But it is what it is. I gave it my all to stand on the podium. Yesterday I wore my heart on my sleeve those last 3 and a half kilometers. I pushed myself pretty hard, I was actually out of breath for 10 minutes. It was the result of the crowd, the positive energy of people who love this sport. They spent hours on the roadside to watch us come by for one second. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to fly up that climb on Flagstaff with thousands of people there. Every moment you are pedaling, people are just erupting next to you. This race was fantastic. I love this sport. This is why I do it. I can’t get enough of it. I’m happy to be on the podium. It is hard when you have the number one on your jersey. I’m proud of this result.”