Tyler Farrar of Wenatchee, Wash., bolted to the front in the final 100 yards and claimed his first win in more than a year Monday in the opening stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), who claimed his first Tour de France stage victory last year but has been winless since, was victorious in the 125.7-mile road race from Durango in 4 hours, 42 minutes 48 seconds.
Italian Alessandro Bazzana (Team Type 1-Sanofi) was second in the stage, trailing by several bike lengths but officially in the same time.
Damiano Caruso (Liquigas-Cannondale) of Italy was third, also in the same time in the stage that included nearly 11,000 feet of climbing.
"I really had to turn myself inside out to make it over (Lizard Head Pass)," said the 28-year-old Farrar who has lived in Ghent, Belgium, for several years and rarely competes in the United States.
"I knew today could possibly be a sprint but I really wasn't sure I had the legs to make it, so I'm pretty happy to pull it off."
Tom Danielson, third overall in the last year and Peter Stetina, both Farrar's teammates, animated the final 10 miles. With more than 20 other riders they also rode at the front earlier in the stage.
"I thought we would stay away," said Danielson who has trained often on the route of the opening stage.
"It was the most fun I've had in a bike race, and it almost worked. But I guess we are too light or something. I don't know. We'll try again tomorrow."
The group of 23 built more than a five-minute margin, with the lead gathering eventually reduced to four riders.
The main field regrouped, approaching the finish with more than a half-dozen sprinters scattered across the road before Farrar emerged past Australian Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare).
"Our home as a team is in Colorado, so we take this race really seriously, and to win here is huge," said Farrar, who finished the Tour de France in July and also competed in the Olympic road race while recovering from several injures.
"For me personally, I have had kind of a disaster of a season so this means a whole lot to me to finally get a win."
Defending race titlist Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) finished 18th in the main field.
The severity of the opening stage took its toll on the field, with American Lawson Craddock, the last of 117 finishers, trailing by nearly 24 minutes. Seven riders didn't finish the stage.
The seven-day, 683-mile event continues Tuesday with a 99.2-mile Montrose to Mt. Crested Butte road race. The undulating stage will have three category 3 climbs, including the final 2-mile uphill effort to the finish.