SILVER CITY, N.M. -- The future of American cycling out-raced the biggest name in the sport during the fourth stage of the Tour of the Gila.
Taylor Phinney beat seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and a number of other high-profile riders Saturday, and gave Trek-Livestrong back-to-back victories following Jesse Sergeant's stirring victory in a time trial.
"Lance pretty much changed my life," said Phinney, the reigning under-23 world champion whose parents are Davis Phinney, a former gold medal-winning Olympic cyclist, and Connie Carpenter-Phinney, a well-known speed skater.
"When I saw him race, I was just blown away with the sport and I told myself that this was a true sport," Phinney said of Armstrong. "I then thought to myself that I would give it a try since my mom and dad were pretty good at it."
Now the attention shifts to the overall race standings on Sunday, where Armstrong's teammate Levi Leipheimer will try to protect his lead during the 40-lap final stage -- dubbed "The Gila Monster Road Race" -- in downtown Silver City.
Tom Danielson and David Zabriskie of DZ Nuts will try to track down Leipheimer, while Armstrong and teammate Jason McCartney will try to shield their Mellow Johnny's buddy.
"We're very familiar with the roads, having done team training camps here multiple times," Zabriskie told VeloNews. "It's a difficult stage. I think Tommy D and myself, we're in a position to try and give Levi a hard time. We'll try and win."
Last year in the same stage, Phillip Zajicek came out of nowhere to win the stage and throw a wrinkle in the Mellow Johnny's team. Zajicek was sitting in fourth place overall, and will try to repeat that performance Sunday.
Nevertheless, Leipheimer is optimistic about the situation.
"It's training for us, and it's going to be tough," he said. "It's going to be very challenging, but that's what we came here for -- to race -- and that's the best kind of training is when you're racing against tough competition. I'm looking forward to it."
Armstrong in particular has been trying to get in shape for the rest of the season.
"I continue to feel good, and it's a work in progress," he said. "We came here to put miles in our training regimen, and the strong field has been a very ideal situation for us."