There are several ways to win a stage race: One is to whittle away at the time gap to the leader until you're in first place. The other is to simply earn it directly by winning stage after stage.
That second way appears to be Levi Leipheimer's strategy as he won his second stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado on Thursday and took back the overall lead from his young rival Tejay Van Garderen.
Leipheimer won Stage 1 in a memorable uphill attack at Crested Butte after a RadioShack teammate paced him to the front. Stage 3 was a mano a mano contest — an uphill, 10-mile individual time trial around Vail.
Leipheimer won the stage by just 58/100ths of a second over Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Cervelo). Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia) finished in 6th place on the stage, 51 seconds behind the winner from Team RadioShack.
Other top finishers include Rafael Infantino (EPM-UNE), 5 seconds behind in 3rd; Tom Danielson (Garmin Cervelo), 33 seconds behind in 4th, and Stef Clement (Rabobank), 41 seconds behind in 5th.
Leipheimer, Danielson, Van Garderen and Vande Velde have been bumping into each other and trading places in the top rankings since the race began on Monday. They are joined by George Hincapie in fifth place; he entered the fray after winning Stage 2.
With three stages to go, all five of them are within a minute of the lead. They're followed closely by Infantino in 6th and Tour de France winner Cadel Evans in 7th place.
Although Stage 4 on Friday provides 5,000 feet of elevation gain, the cyclists finish lower than they started and don't have to tackle any categorized climbs. Breakaways and perhaps a sprint finish could be in store for the 83-mile bike race from Avon to Steamboat Springs.
The race starts at 11:30 a.m. (MT) and will be available on TourTracker. TV coverage on Versus begins at 4 p.m. ET.
Top 10 overall
1. Levi Leipheimer (USA) RadioShack
2. Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin Cervelo — :11
3. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) HTC Highroad — :17
4. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin Cervelo — :21
5. George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing — :53
6. Rafael Infantino (Colombia) EPM-UNE — 1:14
7. Cadel Evans (Australia) BMC Racing — 1:18
8. Stef Clement (Netherlands) Rabobank — 1:42
9. Bruno Pires (Colombia) Leopard Trek — 1:49
10. Rory Sutherland (Australia) UnitedHealthCare — 1:50