Grand Finale: USA Pro Cycling Challenge in downtown Denver

There was plenty of cowbell in downtown Denver on Sunday afternoon as American Christian Vande Velde sprinted to the top of the podium in the 2012 U.S.A Pro Cycling Challenge.

Tens of thousands of people packed the streets of Denver to cheer the 96 remaining cyclists in the final 9.5-mile time trial of the U.S.A. Pro Cycling Challenge. With just 21 seconds and a short, solo sprint separating the top three riders and the glory atop the podium, the pros left it all on the course.

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Cycling fans cheer the start of the final stage of the U.S.A. Pro Challenge in front of the Colorado Capitol building in Denver; photo by Sean McCoy

Fans waved flags and cowbells rang through the heart of Denver as the city welcomed the race and opportunity to celebrate. Vande Velde came from nine seconds behind to overtake Santa Rosa, California, resident and defending champion Levi Leipheimer for the overall victory. Vande Velde, a 36-year-old Garmin-Sharp rider from Lemont, Illinois, finished the 683-mile, seven stage race in a total time of 25 hours, 57 minutes and 34 seconds.

Boulder, Colorado, resident Tejay Van Garderen rode a fast final stage to move from third to second overall. Leipheimer fell to third place overall, 24 seconds behind Vande Velde.

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George Hincapie pushes into the final turn of his professional career on Sunday at the US Pro Challenge. He’s raced in the Tour de France a record 17 times.; photo by Sean McCoy

Among notable riders, BMC cyclist George Hincapie crossed the finish line of his final professional race at the Pro Challenge on Sunday, ending a storied 19-year career in front of thousands of cheering fans. Here are a few photos we captured from the scene. —Sean McCoy

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Denver is decorated for the race; photo by Sean McCoy

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Colorado cycling fans line the streets of Denver for the final day of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge; photo by Sean McCoy

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Fans pack Denver’s Civic Park at the staring gate; photo by Sean McCoy

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Denver is decked out for the races as fans pack the race course; photo by Sean McCoy

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Spain’s Javier Eduardo Gomez Ineda signs autographs before starting final stage of the race; photo by Sean McCoy

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Four-legged supporters got in on the bicycle action; photo by Sean McCoy

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Christian Vande Velde pedals into a corner during the final stage of the U.S.A. Pro Challenge. He won the overall title; photo by Sean McCoy

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Mr. Goodbody cruises near the route of the U.S.A. Pro Challenge; photo by Sean McCoy

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Fans pack Denver’s Civic Park at the staring gate; photo by Sean McCoy

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Denver residents and visitors enjoy a festive atmosphere at the start and finish of the race; photo by Sean McCoy

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Christian Vande Velde on the top of the podium in Denver (photo by Usaprocyclingchallenge.com); overall champion of the 2012 Pro Challenge stage race

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