A sporting threesome.
Final victory in the US Pro Cycling Challenge came down to a three way battle between race leader Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma Quickstep), Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) and Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp).
We talked to Leipheimer’s personal physiologist (and Scratch Lab founder) Allen Lim right before the start. Lim was confident that last year’s winner in Colorado would wrap up a second victory in downtown Denver.
His thought was that Levi was peaking — he’d taken the race lead the day before on the summit finish to Flagstaff. Still, he knew that the crono was going to be tight. “They’re incredibly well matched on this course on paper. They’re all diesel time trialists,” said Lim.
Lim had been watching all three riders and put Leipheimer in the lead spot. “My sense is that Levi is the fittest because he’s just now coming up, having been able to hide all week and take advantage of the war between Garmin and BMC. Tejay might be a little more worn,” said Lim.
“Christian has been doing a fair amount of work but not maybe so much as Tejay in terms of nervous energy. Christian has had that past experience of being a track cyclist so maybe that cues him up. That being said, in the final analysis, Levi is the best of the three, followed by Christian and Tejay.”
Lim has worked with Leipheimer for several years and besides fitness, he saw two more reasons why the Omega Pharma rider would be spraying the champagne. “Levi has such an aerodynamic advantage plus he’s motivated now. He’s thinking, ‘I’m gonna win this thing.'”
Meanwhile over at Garmin-Sharp, aerodynamics expert Robbie Ketchell agreed with Lim that it was a three way battle that defied any predictions.
“Levi is gonna thrive on headwinds and longer, straighter sections. He a smaller guy and more aerodynamic,” said Ketchell. “He’s also good on punchy things and there’s one little kicker on the course. That’s where he’s looking to make up his time.”
However, Ketchell was equally confident that Vande Velde had a strong shot at the GC win. “Christian is a really good bike handler and he’ll be able to drive through the corners,” said Ketchell. “He’s also motivated and strong so he’ll do well on those headwind sections and carry speed back into town. That’s where he’s going to motor.”
Pressed to name a winner, Ketchell said it was too tight to call — “In all honesty, it’s gonna be really even, really up in the air.”
Final score: Vande Velde beats Van Garderen by 9 seconds and Leipheimer by 33 seconds. The Garmin-Sharp rider wins the US Pro Cycling Challenge by 21 seconds over Van Garderen and 24 over Leipheimer.
Lim is usually dead-on but today in Denver on the final stage of the US Pro Cycling Chalenge, it was Ketchell who was right — Vande Velde motored.