Christian Vande Velde says goodbye to Colorado cycling racing |

Christian Vande Velde says goodbye to Colorado cycling racing

ASPEN, CO - AUGUST 18: Christian Vande Velde of the United States riding for Boulder, Colorado-based Garmin-Sharp speaks at a pre-race press conference for the USA Pro Challenge at the Aspen Institute on August 18, 2013, in Aspen, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/The Denver Post)

Christian Vande Velde won’t go down with John Elway and Todd Helton among local sports icons, but the cyclist for Boulder-based Team Garmin-Sharp said goodbye to Colorado anyway Sunday.

Stage 7 of the third annual USA Pro Challenge was his last race on American soil. He kissed goodbyes to the cameras on his last of eight laps through Denver.

“It was a little more emotional than I thought it would be,” said the former Boulder resident who finished 22nd. “That last lap, I started thinking about a lot of things I’ve done in my career and when I first started racing 20 years ago in this state.”

He’ll race the Montreal Grand Prix and the team time trial at the world championships in Florence, Italy, next month. Then, at 37, he’ll retire.

“On the big scale, I’ve done more than I ever thought I’d do,” said Vande Velde, who would like to try TV work after some time off.

He did 22 Grand Tours, but the No. 1 accomplishment of his career was winning last year’s Pro Challenge. No. 2 was finishing fourth in the 2008 Tour de France.

No. 3? He was reminded that many people think he helped clean up cycling. He was one of the first members of Garmin-Sharp, which requires mandatory weekly drug testing, and also testified with others against Lance Armstrong, which led to Armstrong’s confession and lifetime ban.

“If that is part of my legacy, that’s definitely in my top three,” Vande Velde said. “If that’s the way people perceive me, then I’m even more proud. I’m glad I’m leaving cycling in a healthy state.”

Cooke wins king of mountain jersey. Boulder’s Matt Cooke went from being without a team in July to winning the king of the mountain jersey in his adopted state.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Cooke, who finished 28th in the mountains classification at the Tour of Utah three weeks ago. “There’s no competing with these guys, GC wise. They’re just incredible. It’s a dream come true, and I really couldn’t foresee this, considering how Utah went.”

Bits and pieces. Chris Froome, last month’s Tour de France winner, abandoned early in Sunday’s race with breathing problems. … Overall winner Tejay van Garderen is expected to compete in the road race and team time trial at the world championships.

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