Levi Leipheimer won the first stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado on Tuesday, pulling away from the lead group about 500m from the finish.
The RadioShack rider finished the mountainous 160km stage from Salida to Crested Butte in 4 hours, 29 minutes, 22 seconds.
Sergio Luis Henao of Colombia was second, followed by Frank Schleck of Luxembourg and Cadel Evans of Australia, the reigning Tour de France champion.
With a 10-second bonus for his stage win, Leipheimer assumed an 11-second race lead over American Christian Vande Velde, who was second in Monday’s opening prologue and fifth in the first stage.
“I made the move early,” said Leipheimer, who won the five-day Tour of Utah last week and the Tour of Switzerland in June. “That was a first for me. I’ve never won a race with an explosive style. So, I guess in my old age, I’m learning new tricks.”
Leipheimer, who has four top-10 overall Tour de France finishes in his 15-year pro career, is primarily known as a superior time trialist. He won the final time trial of the 2007 Tour de France and finished third overall.
After crashing numerous times early in the Tour de France last month, Leipheimer finished 32nd.
“I feel great. I’m in the best form of my year, but that’s just one component,” said Leipheimer, whose stage win was the 62nd of his pro career. “It’s now also about the strength of my team and the other competitors.”
Leipheimer, who finished seventh in the prologue, emerged from the final group of about a dozen riders approaching the final climb to the finish at the ski resort, elevation 2,860m. The opening stage also took the field of 130 over Monarch Pass, elevation 3,449m.
“It’s difficult to pick one rider,” Leipheimer said, while assessing his competition with five stages remaining of the inaugural race. “There are a handful of very strong riders, potential winners. That’s not to say I’m afraid of any of them, but I’ve won a stage and if I don’t win, I’m satisfied. But of course I’m here to win the overall.”
The 834km event continues with the 210km second stage from Gunnison to Aspen, the most difficult of the event. The second stage includes two climbs reaching more than 3,650m.