TOOELE -- Tejay Van Garderen won the individual time trial in the Tour of Utah on Friday night, racing through the 9.7-mile Miller Motorsports Park course in 17 minutes, 33.64 seconds.
A day after failing in a late bid to win the second stage, the rider won on his 23rd birthday.
"It feels incredible," said Van Garderen, who races for HTC Highroad. "This is the perfect day to do it."
Defending Tour of Utah champion Levi Leipheimer, from Butte, Mont., was second in 17:39.58, giving him the overall lead with two stages left.
Once Van Garderen recorded a split time of 5.09 -- slightly ahead of teammate Patrick Gretsch, who was the stage leader at that point -- he felt confident he could finish off the stage.
"He's been junior world champion," Van Garderen said. "He's always in the top 10 of every time trial he does. So when I knew -- getting the split time -- I was a little bit up on him, I knew that I was in for a good chance of winning because he is one of the best in the world."
Gretsch, a German rider, was third in 17:43.75.
Leipheimer has a 27-second lead over Slovakia's Janez Brajkovic, with Spain's Oscar Sevilla another two seconds back. Colombia's Sergio Henao relinquished the yellow jersey, falling to fourth place -- 56 seconds behind Leipheimer.
Getting a top-three finish was crucial for Leipheimer with the top five riders in the overall standings still bunched so closely together. He anticipates the other teams will be aggressive in trying to overtake him and Team RadioShack on the final two days.
"You have to capitalize on the time trial," Leipheimer said. "I needed every second I could get going into the next two days."
If the Montana rider holds on, winning the Tour of Utah will feel much more significant than a year ago. It is a different race now from Leipheimer's perspective with the bump to a 2.1 classification by the UCI and the inclusion of pro teams in 2011.
"It's a more prestigious race now," Leipheimer said. "The field is stronger. We have bigger teams and bigger names here. That's a good thing for everyone involved. It provides riders on the smaller teams a chance to shine."