Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp) on the way to his win at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge
Christian Vande Velde put in a stunning time trial performance in the Denver finale of the USA Pro Challenge, taking second to stage winner Taylor Phinney (BMC) and moving into the top spot in the general classification.
Vande Velde beat the overnight race leader Levi Leipheimer into third place overall with his virtuoso performance in the 15.3km test, overcoming his nine second deficit and putting in 34 more for good measure to seal the race win.
"I actually had a lot of confidence in today," said Vande Velde. "It was a feather in my cap that a lot of people didn't know that I had. I felt good coming out of the Tour on my time trial bike - I don't know why, the same thing happened last year.
"I was very excited after yesterday when I took time out of Tejay [van Garderen] and stayed close to Levi [Leipheimer] and I knew that I was in with a shot. This race has been amazing from start to finish and I'm excited to finally put the cherry on top with the yellow jersey at the end of the race."
Leipheimer could only manage ninth best on the day, dropping down in the overall classification behind Tejay van Garderen (BMC) who was third in the test, 19 seconds behind his teammate Phinney, who topped the day's standings with a time of 17:25.
"I actually felt really good, my legs were good," said Leipheimer. "I did sort of drop my chain at one corner and had a moment of panic because I thought it totally came off and jammed but it miraculously fell back on, so I don't really thought I lost much time there.
"I got down to a really good climbing weight, but I think when it comes to 15k flat-out on rough city streets with a lot of corners I just don't have it compared to going up Flagstaff. It is what it is, I'm a little bit disappointed, but I'm still proud to stand on the podium and proud to have given it my all."
For van Garderen, second place overall on general classification was one step higher on the final podium than last year, but the 24-year-old BMC rider came into the USA Pro Challenge with overall victory in mind.
"I really wanted this - I had my friends and family here and I wanted to send George [Hincapie] off with a victory," said van Garderen. "I'm proud of the team and I'm proud of everything they did. I wanted to win, but I came out of the Tour and Olympics tired. But I had this on my mind and it kept me focused.
"This race couldn't have been anymore dramatic. It looked one way but then Garmin was throwing everything they had at it and Christian [Vande Velde] was just amazing this week. He says he always comes good out of the Tour and this year he did the Giro, the Tour and Utah, so if he does a Grand Tour after this he'd probably win it."
Phinney set off in the first half of the start order, having not been a factor in the fight for the general classification, but targeting the final day to impress the fans and family in his home state.
David Zabriskie (Garmin-Sharp) had been atop the leader board until Phinney came across the line a full 45 seconds quicker than the US time trial champion.
His time withstood the assault of time trial Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), who was 21 seconds in arrears, Tom Zirbel (Optum) who was half a minute slower and Estonian Tanel Kangert (Astana) who was 40 seconds slower.
As the general classification contenders set out on the course, it was clear from the intermediate checks that no one could match the young BMC' rider's performance.
Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) came in fifth best, 29 seconds behind Phinney, while Joe Dombrowski (Bontrager-Livestrong) had a rough ride and came in with a 19:03, dropping him from fourth to tenth on the final overall general classification but still good enough to earn the best young rider title.
Van Garderen blasted across the line, popping under the time of Velits into second best, with only two riders left to finish: Vande Velde and Leipheimer.
Vande Velde hurtled through the final turn with the clock just ticking over to 17 minutes, and it was clear he was on the ride of his life. He crossed the line just 13 seconds slower than Phinney and had a tense minute to see where Leipheimer would finish.
The Omega Pharma-Quickstep man brought the yellow jersey home in 18:08, and had to pass the honour onto his Garmin-Sharp rival.
After a lengthy stint on the hot seat, the stage victory belonged to Phinney.
"A hometown win is always a beautiful thing," said Phinney. "This time trial has been my carrot all week that I've been chasing, other than trying to get Tejay the yellow jersey. I struggled a lot in the first couple of stages after a crash on the first stage and in that third stage to Aspen I nearly pulled the plug, but I made it through and just kept getting better and better. I had an amazing day yesterday riding through Boulder. I was so honoured to ride for my friend and teammate Tejay through Boulder's downtown.
"I just came here, kept the speed high and did everything I could to win, and just barely got it. There was a blazing fast Christian Vande Velde out there but I'm beyond excited to have won today. It was a big goal of mine."