TOOELE VALLEY — Last year's champion made his big move on Friday, and now he hopes he can hold on.
American Levi Leipheimer of Team RadioShack was the second-fastest cyclist on the course with a time of 17:39.58 during Stage 3 of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
In temperatures in the mid-80s, all 112 riders negotiated the 9.7-mile course with hopes of improving their overall situation in the six-day event.
Ultimately, another American, Tejay Van Garderen, crossed the finish line with the best time of 17:33.64.
After his performance — which earned him the overall yellow jersey — Leipheimer talked about how the Tour of Utah has grown even from a year ago.
"It's much more competitive this year, and it's more of a prestigious race now," said Leipheimer, who won last year's Stage 2. "It's a really good thing for everyone involved now, and it gives riders a platform. It has brought a high level of racing."
Patrick Gretsch from Germany finished with the day's third-best time of 17:43.75. Gretsch said it's nice that he and teammate Van Garderen (who both race for HTC-Highroad) ended up on the podium together.
"I knew I could do really well, and it's really nice to see both of us do well today," Gretsch said.
Gretsch also reacted to last week's announcement that his HTC team will be folding at the end of the season.
"There's a lot of emotions right now," he said. "I think everybody just wants to enjoy these last months of the team."
Utah native David Zabriskie, a six-time U.S. time trial champion, finished the time trial in 18:07.08, good enough for 11th place.
Slovenia's Janez Brajkovic trails RadioShack teammate Leipheimer by 27 seconds in the general classification after the prologue and three stages that have included 222 of the tour's total 409 miles.
Oscar Sevilla of Spain is in third place and trails Leipheimer by 29 seconds, while Colombia's Sergio Henao — the overall leader entering Friday — sits in fourth place, now 56 seconds behind.
Today's Stage 4 is an 82-mile circuit race through downtown Salt Lake City. The Tour of Utah then wraps up with Sunday's mountain Stage 5, with racers winding 100 miles through the likes of Midway, Sundance and Snowbird.
Leipheimer is happy to be in the top spot, especially while competing in his home country.
"It's always nice to put on the yellow jersey," he said. "And it's great to see the Tour of Utah and especially (the state of) Utah come of age in cycling."
Tour of Utah
Friday's Stage 3 results (9.7-mile time trial at Miller Motorsports Park)—1. Tejay Van Garderen, USA (HTC-Highroad), 17.33.64; 2. Levi Leipheimer, USA (Team RadioShack), 17:39.58; 3. Patrick Gretsch, GER (HTC-Highroad), 17:43.75; 4. Alexander Wetterhall, SWE (Endura Racing), 17:51.23; 5. Christian Vande Velde, USA (Team Garmin-Cervelo), 17:52.24.
Overall standings (after 222 miles of 409 total miles)—1. Levi Leipheimer. USA (Team RadioShack), 8 hours, 35 minutes, 3 seconds; 2. Janez Brajkovic, SLO (Team RadioShack), 27 seconds back; 3.. Oscar Sevilla, ESP (Gobernacion Indeportes Antioquia), 29 seconds back; 4. Sergio Henao, COL (Gobernacion Indeportes Antioquia), 56 seconds back; 5. Jesse Anthony, USA (Kelly Benefit Strategies – OptumHealth), 1 minute, 24 seconds back.