In his record-tying 16th Tour de France, George Hincapie is now the highest placed American (in 13th, four seconds behind new race leader Thor Hushovd of Garmin-Cervélo) after giving the team time trial his all in support of BMC teammate Cadel Evans’ GC aspirations.
HTC-Highroad’s Tejay Van Garderen, 16 years younger than Hincapie, is the second-best placed American in 16th at five seconds behind.
And, of course, the top three spots on the overall belong to riders on American teams after Garmin-Cervélo and BMC went one-two on the stage 2 TTT.
“In a team time trial, when you know you made mistakes, it’s horrible,” Garmin’s David Millar said immediately after his team finished but before most of the other fast teams came through. “Today, we did everything right. If we lose, it’s only because another team was faster.”
No other team was faster.
“It was a big dream of mine to pull on the yellow jersey as world champion, so you can imagine how happy I feel,” said Hushovd, who rode the event, oddly enough, in a king of the mountains skinsuit.
Hushovd wore polka dots for finishing third on stage 1. He said with a laugh that it might have been his first-ever climber’s jersey. Equally as strange, Evans started the day in a green skinsuit denoting the leader of the points competition. (He was second on stage 1, and while race leader Philippe Gilbert collected all three major jerseys, he can only wear one at a time.)
The white jersey could have gone to an American, but no such luck. Van Garderen is third in the best young rider competition, one second behind Sky teammates Geraint Thomas and Edvald Boasson Hagen. Van Garderen could have taken the jersey had HTC-Highroad not suffered the unfortunate crash of Bernie Eisel early on in the time trial.
HTC director Ralf Aldag said he couldn’t say exactly how much time the crash cost, but one can easily argue that at least two seconds were lost.
“The crash cost them rhythm,” Aldag said. “That was more of a problem. To get everything reset and organized cost time and energy. We cannot blame him for the crash. Shit happens. We said it was going to be super tight, and if anybody does a mistake you’ll drop off the list of guys who can win it. We dropped off that list when Bernie was on the floor. But obviously we kept fighting.”
The California-registered HTC squad finished fifth, a fraction of a second behind Leopard-Trek.
Hincapie was pleased with his team’s aggressive start to the short stage. BMC had the fastest early split and then held on for dear life as the effort began to really sting.
“The end was just brutal,” Hincapie said. “It was almost like you were climbing a mountain, the wind was so strong.”
Besides bolstering GC positions, the TTT also offered foreshadowing as to how the top teams will perform in the coming days.
“We showed today that we’re here to race hard,” said Garmin’s Canadian Ryder Hesjedal. “Everybody’s happy, everybody’s motivated and everybody’s having fun. And that’s want you want to do at the biggest bike race in the world.”
After RadioShack finished sixth, 10 seconds back on Garmin, Levi Leipheimer was all grins about his team’s performance. He was especially complimentary of Andreas Klöden’s work. With Leipheimer, Klöden and Chris Horner all nearing 40, Leipheimer said he is looking forward to the final days of the Tour.
“With the experience and the age of our team, the third week should be best for us,” he said. “Myself, I’m a diesel. I need 10 days for everybody to get tired, and I get less tired. I think I proved that at Tour du Suisse, and I’m feeling strong.”