Christian Vande Velde Wins Overall USA Pro Challenge

Stage 7 Of USA Pro Challenge Wound Through Denver On Sunday

Christian Vande Velde won the overall title in the USA Pro Challenge, finishing second Sunday behind Taylor Phinney in the closing time trial.

Vande Velde, the 36-year-old Garmin-Sharp rider from Lemont, Ill., won the seven-stage race a year after finishing second to Levi Leipheimer. Tejay van Garderen of BMC and Bozeman, Mont., was second overall -- 21 seconds back -- after finishing third in the time trial.

"I've finished as the bridesmaid so many times, I wasn't going to let one slip away this time," said Vande Velde, whose last race victory was the 2008 Tour of Missouri.

Leipheimer, the Omega Pharma-Quickstep rider based in Santa Rosa, Calif., was ninth in the final stage and third overall -- 24 seconds behind.

Phinney, the BMC rider from Boulder, Colo., who finished fourth in the time trial in the London Olympics, beat Vande Velde by 13 seconds, finishing the 9.5-mile downtown course in 17 minutes, 25 seconds and at average speed of 32.7 mph.

"I had a tough week early," said Phinney, who endured a crash and began the final stage in 71st position among the finishing field of 96. "I almost pulled the pulled the plug."

After posting his early best time, Phinney waited about two hours before his stage win time was confirmed.

Vande Velde and van Garderen had the same overall time for most of the event and exchanged race leads by tiebreakers.

"I wasn't ready to lose," van Garderen said. "I was convinced I was going to win it."

The 863-mile, second-year race began Aug. 20 in Crested Butte with 123 cyclists representing 16 teams.

George Hincapie of Greenville, S.C., completed the final race of his 19-year pro career. Last month, the 39-year-old rider equaled the record with his 16th Tour de France finish.

Local Fans Enjoy Denver Show

Race officials said last year's race brought more than one million spectators. This year, the crowds were even larger. Spectators lined the 9.5 mile race through Denver, cheering on every cyclist.

"I love it. My heart's just beating, it's hard to talk right now," said Wyatt Hanley-Brisnehan from Denver.

He and his family stood along the finish line, cheering for every cyclists as they crossed. The final stage was individual time trials, so cyclists took off one at a time every minute.

USA Pro Challenge CEO Shawn Hunter said the race was the perfect way to end a difficult summer for Colorado.

"It has been a rough summer so it's nice to see us end on a celebration," said Hunter "This really is a community asset."

'Visit Denver' officials said the state made $84 million last year. The race will be held in Colorado in 2013 according to Hunter but some of the hosting cities may change.

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