Defending champion Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) utilised his time trial skills to solo to stage victory in the final stage of the Tour of Utah.
To be off the front and pushing yourself so hard, you know it’s not pretty. I felt ugly on the bike but I won the stage and I’ve ridden that same course about 20 times, and every time I’ve come over the top of that hill and on that downhill I imagine myself in that scenario that I was today.
While Leipheimer's victory in the 123.7km stage dramatically reduced his general classification deficit, it was not enough to unhinge BMC Racing's Johann Tschopp from the top of the standings.
Leipheimer was part of a select group of 18 riders, including Tschopp, which was chasing down Australian Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) on the brutal final categorised climb of the day, Empire Pass Road.
Leipheimer, who is very familiar with the climb, attacked just as Tschopp's team-mate fell off the pace.
The only rider who tried to stick to Leipheimer's wheel was Sutherland himself when Leipheimer passed him. However, not even he could maintain the pace.
Leipheimer went into time trial mode, and his gap only grew going into the final kilometres allowing him to cross the line 49 seconds ahead of his nearest rival.
"I am really happy about this victory," Leipheimer said.
“To be off the front and pushing yourself so hard, you know it’s not pretty. I felt ugly on the bike but I won the stage and I’ve ridden that same course about 20 times, and every time I’ve come over the top of that hill and on that downhill I imagine myself in that scenario that I was today, you know off the front coming out of the corners hard and taking the risks on the downhill and racing to that finish line. It’s why I do this. I’m pretty happy about that.
"I was really looking forward to this race and for Colorado. Already yesterday I felt that I was improving. I only miscalculated the final a little bit, but today I knew the course really well. I train a lot here. I have a good friend who lives here, so I know the area.
"After the Tour de France I stayed focused. I didn't gain weight, I recovered and I continued to ride and train. Now I will really look forward to Colorado. These two races, Utah and Colorado, are important to me and I am the defending champ of both of them. When you start with the number one on your back, you have to always try your best for the good of your team, yourself, and the race."
Tschopp raced a tactically precise race to finish the stage fourth and defend the leader's jersey that he won on Saturday on the Queen Stage climb to Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort.
“Our strategy (BMC) was to stay together the longest possible, the whole team as long as possible, to limit the damage," said Tschopp.
"Levi had two minutes (down on general classification), so for us that gave us a security margin. We told each other that if he attacked, we would let him go but still limit the gap to the finish. There was (a gap of) one minute and 20 seconds and I couldn't let him get more time so as to not lose the jersey. I thank my whole team for this magnificent day."
American Matthew Busche (RadioShack-Nissan) was second overall, 43 seconds behind Tschopp, with Team NetApp’s Leopold Koenig (Czech Republic) third, 49 seconds off the pace.
Sutherland, the winner of the opening stage in Ogden, was awarded the Most aggressive rider jersey on the final day, after he and Leipheimer attacked a select group of riders up Empire Pass. Bontrager-Livestrong’s Joe Dombrowski retained his Best Young Rider jersey as he stayed with the chase group behind Leipheimer.
Australian Michael Matthews (Rabobank) who won Stage 3, retained his sprint leader jersey.
Stage 6: 121.3km, Park City
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 3hr 06min 54sec
2 Steven Kruijswijk (NED) Rabobank 0:00:49
3 Leopold Koenig (CZE) NetApp
4 Johann Tschopp (SUI) BMC
5 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Sharp
6 Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski (USA) Bontrager Livestrong
7 Matthew Busche (USA) RadioShack-Nissan
8 Ian Boswell (USA) Bontrager Livestrong
9 Lucas Euser (USA) Spidertech p/b C10
10 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan
1 Johann Tschopp (SUI) BMC 21hr 26min 32sec
2 Matthew Busche (USA) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:43
3 Leopold Koenig (CZE) NetApp 0:00:49
4 Joseph Lloyd Dombrowski (USA) Bontrager Livestrong 0:00:58
5 Ian Boswell (USA) Bontrager Livestrong 0:01:03
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 0:01:08
7 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan 0:01:19
8 Lucas Euser (USA) Spidertech p/b C10 0:01:21
9 Steven Kruijswijk (NED) Rabobank 0:01:29
10 Mathias Frank (SUI) BMC 0:01:31
Final Tour of Utah podium (Jonathan Devich)