MENDE, France (VN) — On a stage unsuited to his skills, Tejay van Garderen (BMC) limited his losses to the GC men seeking to knock him off the podium.
Van Garderen lost 40 seconds to Chris Froome (Sky) and 39 to Nairo Quintana (Movistar) on the steep, 3km final climb to Mende. The damage done dropped him from second to third in the general classification, 22 seconds behind Quintana.
The Côte de la Croix Neuve, averaging just over 10 percent, closed out a lumpy ride from Rodez to Mende.
“Well certainly the last climb was difficult, I tend to struggle on really steep short climbs like that, I prefer more the longer climbs, where you can find your own rhythm,” van Garderen said after the stage.
Van Garderen was distanced just before Quintana put in the first of two major efforts, but was able to keep his GC adversaries in sight.
“I tried to stay in my rhythm, I saw the people ahead of me and tried to use them as a gauge to keep them in my sights,” he said. “It was a difficult climb on those gradients, like I sad that’s where I tend to struggle the most. But the Alps are better suited to my characteristic so I’m still looking forward and I still feel good.”
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) also gained time on the BMC rider, but remain 30 and 51 seconds behind, respectively. Van Garderen gained on other key rivals, including Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Froome’s Sky teammate Geraint Thomas.
“I just tried to stay within myself and limit the time loss, but yeah, I mean it’s a pity to move down a place on GC but the podium is still very much a realistic goal,” van Garderen said.
“Even though I lost time on a couple guys I still gained time on Gesink and Geraint Thomas and a few other guys close on GC,” he said. “It’s not entirely an unsuccessful day. I kinda knew today was going to be one that I had to get through.”
Sunday’s stage to Valence should present no problems for the GC men, as it finishes with a flat run-in of about 40 kilometers after the descent from the top of the day’s final uphill test, a category 2 climb. Monday’s finish in Gap is only slightly more dangerous. The peloton will tackle the category 2 Col de Mense with just under 10km to go, and then drop quickly into the finish.
Van Garderen will look to maintain his GC position through those final two stages before Tuesday’s rest day, with an eye toward regaining lost time in the difficult final week.
“The Alps present more opportunities and more chances to take back some time,” he said.