MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colorado (VN) — Tejay van Garderen now owns the race lead in Colorado, but how much work will his BMC Racing team have to do to control a bike race that’s been ferocious from kilometer zero?
Short answer? A lot.
The strength of the BMC roster has been the talk of the team buses, as has the team’s reluctance to control a Colorado race that’s been on fire since the rollout in Durango. Garmin-Sharp has been particularly aggressive with its attacks, putting Tom Danielson up the road in stage 1 and driving another break in stage 2, a tactic that comes from Garmin boss Jonathan Vaughters’ hopes to rattle the other contenders.
Thus far, BMC has not had to truly bridle the race; it’s put riders in breaks and there seems to be a daily discussion over which team should assert itself on the sharp end. That must change soon.
“They’ve got two really, really strong guys. I know for certain with our team we just don’t have anybody fresh. … I’m completely cooked from all the racing I’ve done,” said RadioShack-Nissan’s Chris Horner, who sits in eighth, 12 seconds back of race leader van Garderen.
“Look. When you win Utah last week, and the guy who won Utah is here, and then you bring Tejay, who can time trial, is here, and you bring a Tour de France champion, who’s here — your job is to control the race, period. That’s common sense,” Horner said.
BMC brought an absolutely stacked squad to Colorado — a team that’s capable of winning any bike race on the planet. It’s George Hincapie’s final race; Cadel Evans is here, as is 2012 Tour of Utah winner Johann Tschopp. Taylor Phinney is also riding in support of van Garderen, in hopes of repaying van Garderen for his service in the Olympic road race, in which Phinney placed fourth.
Of course, BMC’s tactics are likely to change now that van Garderen is sitting in yellow, and the top-tier squad can’t expect much help as the race barrels headlong into the Elk mountains
It’s likely that Garmin-Sharp will be even more aggressive Wednesday in the USA Pro Challenge’s queen stage, a date with a monster dirt climb (the 12,126-foot Cottonwood Pass) and the hectic Independence Pass, another 12,000-foot summit, before a bombing descent into Aspen.
RadioShack must try something, too, or else it’s likely that van Garderen will have enough of a cushion headed into the Denver time trial that any of its GC contenders will have a hard time snatching yellow from the American.
BMC’s Jim Ochowicz said the team planned to ride its own race, no matter what other teams were demanding of it.
“Everybody’s got to do what they’ve got to do to try to win the race. If that’s what we’ve got to do, it’s what we’ve got to do. There are some teams here that — I’m wondering why they’re here, but that’s their decision. They don’t seem to be too interested in the bike race,” Ochowicz said after stage 2.
BMC wanted the race lead for van Garderen. Now, it will have to keep it. Garmin-Sharp still has two very capable riders in Christian Vande Velde (same time as van Garderen) and Danielson (+12 seconds) that are still very much threats to win the overall, and the team has none of the pressure to reel in an attacking Horner, Jakob Fuglsang or Andreas Klöden, for example. The RadioShack-Nissan riders are all within 20 seconds of van Garderen.
“I said at the beginning: BMC, they have the best rider here. Tejay van Garderen. And they have to take control of the race, like I did last year with Levi (Leipheimer),” said RadioShack director Alain Gallopin. “Of course. They have to control … Tejay showed today he is the favorite, the big leader of this race. No discussion. He showed he could win on a mountaintop finish, and he’s the best in the TT.”
BMC assistant director Michael Sayers said the squad now has its work cut out for it.
“It’s going to take a little bit of luck and the team staying together, and riding as the best unit as we can,” he said. “I think the most experienced guys like Cadel Evans and George Hincapie will be big. It’s going to come down to them helping Tejay.”
Van Garderen also led last year’s after the stage 2 finish in Aspen, but lost the jersey the next day.
Ochowicz, meanwhile, insists his BMC team isn’t the only team in the race strong enough to manage it.
“We’re not a Goliath here. There are other good teams here. We came here to win the race, and as Tejay said prior to day one at the press conference, we’re doing our thing to try to get there.”