What's Cool In Road Cycling

USAPC’12 St.6: Sutherland Wins, Levi On Top

Photo Report: At last – the day everyone had been waiting for – the first real mountaintop finish in USA Pro Challenge history (ok, it’s a short history). The crowds turned out by the thousands, and the racing lived up to every bit of the hype with a fantastic showdown on Flagstaff Mountain as the day’s gift to the fans, and PEZ Photog Darrell Parks captured the action.

– Photos by Darrell Parks, words provided by USA Pro Challenge –

“Today was amazing; I saw all kinds of colorful characters up on Flagstaff and it was inspiring,” said Leipheimer. “I knew I had to save my strength for today. When I was nearing the finish, I just focused on giving it everything I had. Today was one of the most beautiful days of cycling I’ve ever seen.”

Defending Champion Levi Leipheimer of Omega Pharma-QuickStep Takes the Overall Lead of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge Heading into Final Day of Racing
Boulder-Resident Rory Sutherland of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Wins Stage 6 of the Professional Cycling Race after Powering Up Flagstaff Mountain

Boulder, Colo. (Aug. 25, 2012) – In a battle to the finish, Stage 6 of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge came to a close when Rory Sutherland (AUS) of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team crossed the line at the top of Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder first, followed by Fabio Aru (ITA) of Astana Pro Team and Jens Voigt (GER) of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek. In what has been a constant battle for the overall lead, Defending Champion Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Omega Pharma-QuickStep heads into the final day of the race wearing the Exergy Leader Jersey, nine seconds up on Christian Vande Velde (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda and 21 seconds ahead of Tejay van Garderen (USA) of BMC Racing Team.

The penultimate stage of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge took the riders from returning host city Golden to one of the most legendary cycling cities in the U.S. – Boulder – on a 102.8m/165.5 km route that included the epic climb of Flagstaff Mountain. Featuring three Waste Management sprints and two Nissan King of the Mountains competitions in addition to Flagstaff, the stage was challenging and hotly contested.

The stage began with several attacks and counter-attacks, but nothing stuck until a 14-man breakaway that would last for a good part of the stage. Upon reaching the first Waste Management sprint in Boulder, Serghei Tvetcov (MOL) of Team Exergy crossed the line first, followed by Sutherland and Stage 4 winner Jens Voigt (GER) of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek.

There he is! – Pez photog Darrell Parks!

Heading toward the first KOM of the day – Cat. 2 Boulder Canyon (8,231 ft.) – the breakaway riders traveled through a classic mountain tunnel climbing at a speed of 22 mph, with Alex Howes (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda taking max points, followed by EPM-UNE riders Francisco Jarley Colorado Hernandez (COL) and Robigzon Leandro Oyola Oyola (COL).

Descending at speeds of up to 62 mph, the break screamed down the hill toward the second Waste Management sprint line of the day in Lyons, where Tvetcov took max points, followed by Timmy Duggan (USA) of Liquigas-Cannondale and Voigt.

After making the turn onto Lefthand Canyon, Voigt launched an attack with his teammate George Bennett (NZL) to ultimately spring Bennett into a solo break heading toward the second KOM of the day – Cat. 2 Lee Hill Rd. (7,008 ft.). With only seven riders left in the original break, Bennett crested the hill first, followed by Colorado and Voigt.

With only two minutes over the field, the break saw several attacks heading toward the final Waste Management sprint of the day in Boulder, which was taken by Voigt, followed by Tvetcov and Aru. With Voigt out slightly in front of the break, Sutherland launched an attack that would take him out in front and lead to him powering up the mountain all the way across the finish line.

“Flagstaff is such a beautiful mountain,” said Sutherland. “I can’t even describe the beauty of cycling in Colorado and how much it means to win in my hometown of Boulder. This is definitely the biggest win of my career.”

In a battle for the general classification, with about 5 km to go attacks were launched off the front of the field, which allowed Leipheimer to pull away and take fourth in the stage, placing him at the top of the GC.

“The competitive level of racing we’ve seen at the 2012 USA Pro Challenge has made it one of the closest major stage races in the history of the sport,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the Pro Challenge. “With Levi taking over the lead today under the picturesque backdrop of Flagstaff Mountain and the largest, most enthusiastic crowds I’ve ever seen at a U.S. stage race cheering him on, we couldn’t have asked for a better day of racing.”

As part of the awards ceremony actor Patrick Dempsey presented Leipheimer with the Exergy Leader Jersey.

“With the individual time trial tomorrow in Denver, it is still anyone’s race,” added Hunter. “We’re primed for an incredibly exciting finish to the 2012 USA Pro Challenge.”

In a shakeup of the jerseys, Leipheimer took the Exergy Leader Jersey and Voigt claimed the Nissan King of the Mountains Jersey. Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski (USA) of Bontrager Livestrong Team maintained the Aquadraat Best Young Rider Jersey and Tyler Farrar (USA) of Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda the Waste Management Sprint Jersey. Sutherland was awarded the Evolve Most Aggressive Rider Jersey.

Rory Sutherland (AUS) – UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
On training in Flagstaff and his win:
“I don’t know how many times I’ve done this mountain, but it’s getting near a 100. Flagstaff is such a beautiful mountain. It’s about knowing the area and the climb, and when to push yourself or when to take it easy. I can’t even describe the beauty of cycling in Colorado and how much it means to win in my hometown of Boulder.”

On what this victory means:
“This is definitely the biggest win of my career. I’m still coming to terms with how I pulled it off! It’s great for UnitedHealthcare and it’s great for me as well.”

On his strategy:
“I said to the riders before I went up, ‘you better make sure you’re ready, because I’m coming up in that breakaway.’ When I was coming up on 5K I was getting goosebumps; I can’t even explain my emotions. My win today was a combination of knowing the course, and having teammates like Timmy, Chris and Alex behind me. But once you get up that break, it’s every man for himself.”

Levi Leipheimer (USA) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
On the last 5K of Stage 6 compared to the 2011 race:
“Last year’s Stage 6 route from Golden to Denver was phenomenal and it made me wonder which race was bigger, the Tour of California or the USA Pro Challenge, but there’s no argument after today. It was amazing; I saw all kinds of colorful characters up on Flagstaff and it was inspiring. I just tried to factor in all my tactics and made sure I was in front of Tejay’s wheel.”

On his 2012 season:
“It’s really been a hard year for me. I started off winning the Tour de San Luis in Argentina, but thing’s started to go downhill for me after that. After my results today, I think I’m finally back to myself and will continue to have success tomorrow.”

On his win today:
“I was hoping for the best. I wanted to do something in Crested Butte, but Tejay was stronger. I knew I had to save my strength for today. When I was nearing the finish, I just focused on giving it everything I had. Today was amazing, and one of the most beautiful days of cycling I’ve ever seen.”

On the Stage 7 Individual Time Trial
“I’m very pleased to have the Exergy Leader Jersey on my shoulders now. Anything can happen tomorrow. I’ve won some big time trials, but Tejay is coming of age; he’s probably the best Grand Tour rider we have right now. He and Christian Van Velde are both great at time trials; it’s daunting. But there’s no doubt that today’s race will give me some extra motivation.”

Jens Voigt (GER) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek
On if he expected to win the Nissan KOM jersey:
“No not really. We had 80 guys who tried to go in for the breakaway, and it ended up with George Bennett and I in the lead for our team. I never really thought about winning because I believed I was third as of this morning, missing 10-15 points…but apparently it ended up on my shoulders, so hey, I’ll take it.”

On the stage and race overall:
“I have to give my compliments to whoever chose this setup…it’s pretty beautiful. When they announced that there would be 20 to 30 thousand people up here today I said I’ll believe it when I see it, and now I believe it. I signed one for more year with my team and I really hope they bring me back next year. I hope I can do this climb again! You see so many colorful characters out there cheering us on, and it was just great, spectacular! The standings are so tight with the GC , so it’s all open for tomorrow. The USA Pro Challenge couldn’t be much more thrilling…a winner won’t be decided until the last moment.”

Sunday, Aug. 26 – Denver Individual Time Trial (15.3 km/9.5 mi)
Start Time: 1 p.m. MT
Estimated Finish Time: approximately 3 p.m. MT
Satellite Feed Time: 5 – 5:15 p.m. MT

After a tough week of racing over mountains at high altitude, the Stage 7 Individual Time Trial will be a completely different kind of race – and one that could dramatically change the results. By taking the team factor out of the race, this flat and fast course in downtown Denver will have those looking to take the overall win facing a tough individual test, making this one of the most exciting finishes possible.

Using many of the same roads as the final Denver finish circuits of 2011, the course will provide a challenge for the riders and fantastic viewing opportunities for race fans. Starting at one-minute intervals, with the final riders going off at two minutes, near the State Capitol Building in Denver’s Civic Center Park, the riders will first face a familiar out-and-back section along Speer Blvd. and Colfax Ave., with a slight detour through the entertainment district along Larimer Street.

Returning toward the start area on Colfax, the riders will turn north to 17th Ave. and a long section of straight road, eventually delivering them to City Park. A short, but technical run through the park will return the riders to 17th Ave., allowing spectators to see their favorite riders pass by again. Two quick turns will put the riders back on Broadway headed south to the finish line adjacent to Civic Center Park.

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