MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — Tejay van Garderen emerged at the front in last few hundred uphill yards, captured the Stage 2 and assumed the race lead at the USA Pro Challenge on Tuesday.
Van Garderen, who rides for BMC, completed the 99.2-mile Montrose to Mt. Crested Butte road race in 3 hours, 52 minutes and 24 seconds.
Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp) of Lemont, lll., finished second in the same time, Ivan Rovny (Rusvelo) of Russia was third, trailing the stage winner by six seconds.
“I wasn’t going into the last two miles thinking I was going to win, but I knew I was going to try,” said van Garderen, who last month placed fifth and was the highest American finisher in the Tour de France.
“When I looked over my shoulder and I saw Christian Vande Velde on my wheel, I thought he was in a perfect position to outsprint me. But at this elevation, I think he may have had trouble with his acceleration.”
Van Garderen, who earned his first win of the season, has the same overall time as Vande Velde. But van Garderen is the race leader based on his higher place in Stage 2.
Vande Velde, second overall in the race last year, also had a runner-up stage finish in the Tour de France.
“I am really happy with my ride today,” said Vande Velde, who has finished as high as fourth overall in the Tour de France. “As an American team based in Boulder, I am very proud of how the team is riding in Colorado.”
Defending race titlist Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) of Santa Rosa, Calif., finished fourth in the stage and is now fourth overall, trailing by eight seconds.
“I wasn’t really considering the stage win today,” said Van Garderen, who began Stage 2 in 17th place.
“But then toward the end, our guys started working and started bringing the gap to the breakaway down. So I couldn’t let them down.”
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) of Wenatchee, who held the race lead after his Stage 1 sprint win, placed 57th in Stage 2 and is 72nd in the field of 116, trailing by 4:39.
The seven-day, 683-mile event continues Wednesday with a 130.6-mile Gunnison to Aspen road race. The stage features category 1 climbs to Independence Pass and Cottonwood Pass, both with elevations of more than 12,000 feet.