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The second USA Pro Challenge wrapped up in Denver yesterday, after a week of thrilling bike racing, with Christian Vande Velde of Boulder’s Garmin-Sharp squad taking the overall win and Boulder native Taylor Phinney of Team BMC winning the final time trial. Vande Velde, the 36-year-old American veteran who placed second overall in last year’s edition (and who was the subject of a 5280 profile in 2009), has frequently played a supporting role to other American stars, and the USAPC was his first big stage-race win since 2008, when he won the Tour of Missouri. But, as cycling blog Red Kite Prayer put it, “the real star of this race is the state of Colorado. California boasts more bike companies, more bike races, factors more of cyclists and roads than Colorado. But the Rocky Mountain State is to bike racing in North America what the Louvre is to art—its spiritual home.” And I would agree, without reservation, with that sentiment having experienced the race first-hand, with photographer Jefferson Panis, in a Mavic neutral-support car on Stage Six from Golden to Boulder. The roads, the scenery … and the crowds from Golden to Lyons to Boulder to the finale on Flagstaff Mountain were, in a word, epic. —Geoff Van Dyke