Brtiain’s Alex Dowsett (Trek-LiveStrong) retained the sprint classification jersey in the Tour of the Gila after Thursday’s windswept second stage of the American race.

Dowsett won the sprint jersey after getting in an early break in Wednesday’s opening stage of the five-day race held in New Mexico. The 21-year-old took the first intermediate sprint, and then came runner-up in the second to accrue enough points to head the points classification.

Some smart riding on stage two by Dowsett and his Trek-LiveStrong team-mates saw the Briton place 15th and retain the sprint jersey.

Stage one winner Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny’s) leads the overall classification after placing second in stage two. Defending champion Leipheimer is riding the event with Lance Armstrong and Jason McCartney under the name of the Texan’s bike shop – no ProTour squads are officially allowed in the national-level race.

The riders now face a 26.6km individual test against the clock in Friday’s stage three. Leipheimer won the TT in last year’s event to secure the overall, and ranks as favourite to repeat this year. The 2010 Tour of the Gila concludes on Sunday.

Dowsett joined Lance Armstrong’s US-based Trek-Livestrong development outfit at the end of the 2009 season and quickly found his feet, getting in long breaks in the Tour of Oman and Tour of Qatar.

However, the switch to the professional ranks hasn’t been all plain sailing for Dowsett. Disaster struck in the American San Dimas Stage Race in March when Dowsett crashed badly. His injuries persisted into the following week and the Briton was forced to pull out of the Redlands Bicycle Classic.

Dowsett also initially struggled to acclimatise himself to the altitude of the team’s base in Boulder, Colorado.

One of Dowsett’s key objectives for the year is the under-23 men’s time trial in the European Championships in Turkey during July. 

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Dowsett signs with Trek-LiveStrong