Levi still yellow heading into Stage 5 | PostIndependent.com

Levi still yellow heading into Stage 5

Joel ReichenbergerSteamboat Springs Pilot & TodayPost IndependentGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
USAPCC start 2 KA 8-26-11

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colorado – No one would be able to tell by the screaming crowds at the finish line or the flag-waving hoards along Colorado Highway 131, the massive model steamboat built out of hay bales just a few miles outside Steamboat Springs or the school children with carefully made signs lining the route near Yampa.No one would be able to tell by the rampant enthusiasm that defined Stage 4 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge – excitement that made the stage perhaps one of the greatest on American soil, according to one event coordinator – but Friday’s stage, the Steamboat Stage, went about as all the experts expected.To the lay bicycle racing fan, it might even have been boring.The general classification standings may have remained the same – Team Radio Shack’s Levi Leipheimer taking advantage of Friday’s relatively easy route to make it back-to-back days in yellow – but a thrilling sprint from Elia Viviani, an Italian from team Liquigas-Cannondale, thrilled the thousands of spectators who gathered at the downtown Steamboat finish.”That was the most energetic stage I’ve ever attended,” event co-director Shawn Hunter said. This “was our biggest crowd. … That was the most amazing stage, perhaps in an American race ever.”Team Radio Shack ended the day happy that energy didn’t bleed into the actual race, though that lack of action came through hard work as the team beat down attacks designed to spring other top riders vying for the yellow jersey.One group of five did finally break free, but without any of the top threats eyeing Leipheimer’s yellow.The gap between that group and the peloton began to narrow the closer the race grew to Steamboat Springs, along Highway 131 through Yampa, Phippsburg and Oak Creek, until finally they merged as they closed in on the finish line.”I’m the one with the yellow jersey, but it belongs to the entire team,” Leipheimer said afterward. “You don’t get to see a lot of the work they do from the beginning of the race when the attacks start. They needed to manage the race so there wasn’t a dangerous breakaway or a large breakaway, and that’s always a lot of work.”Every day we defend [the yellow jersey] is a testament to how strong a team Radio Shack is.” The final stage of Stage 4 belonged to the sprinters, and it was Viviani who emerged atop the heap. He sat behind the lead riders as the peloton thundered down U.S. Highway 40 and into Steamboat Springs on Lincoln Ave., but burst from behind his team, around his competitors and to the front of the pack in the final 100 yards, throwing both arms up as he crossed the finish line.”For me, the green jersey is very important,” said Viviani, who said winning Friday’s stage gave him a boost not only toward that goal, but also in his cycling career.He is hoping this summer to earn a spot on the Italian national team. Friday’s win, along with a second-place finish at a stage in the Tour of Utah, may help him do just that.He soaked it in Friday atop the awards podium, savoring the kisses from the stage women and smiling wide beneath a new cowboy, courtesy of Steamboat Springs.”It’s been a very good month for me in the USA,” he said. “This win was important for the team, but definitely for me.”

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