LA PIERRE-SAINT-MARTIN, France (VN) — Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) battened down the hatches and rode out the Team Sky storm to defend his podium position Tuesday in the Tour’s first foray into the mountains.
Van Garderen started and ended Tuesday’s stage 10 in second overall, keeping his podium hopes alive on a day that saw defending Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) lose time.
“Today was not my best day, but it wasn’t all bad. I am still keeping a good GC position,” van Garderen said post-stage. “The first mountain stage is always tricky. We’ve done almost two weeks without climbing any real mountains; it can be a real shock to the system, especially after the first rest day.”
Van Garderen crossed the line 10th at 2:30 back, and saw his gap to yellow jersey Chris Froome (Sky) grow from just 12 seconds to 2:52.
BMC Racing took encouragement that van Garderen was able to defend second place, and take important gains on some podium rivals. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) slotted into third overall, at 3:09 back, but van Garderen gained 21 seconds on Contador, and more than three minutes to Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), an outside podium threat.
BMC’s Samuel Sánchez was the last man there for van Garderen, and eventually lost contact just before Contador slid off the back. Sánchez said he fought to the finish to be close to van Garderen, just in case he needed to change bikes late in the stage.
“For us today, that Tejay [van Garderen] maintained second place, above all for the head, is very important,” BMC’s Samuel Sánchez told VeloNews. “Seeing riders like Nibali and Rodríguez, who are podium threats, losing a lot of time is also good for us. Froome was impressive today.”
Van Garderen seemed relieved to get through the stage with his podium hopes intact. Others weren’t so lucky as Movistar and Team Sky laid down the gauntlet on the 2015 Tour de France’s first major climb.
“It was extremely difficult. Those first 10km were really steep, and Sky put on quite the performance. I tried my best to stay with them, but when it got a bit too much for me, I tried to stay at my rhythm and get to the top,” van Garderen said.
“It should go better from here. I am still happy with where we are sitting,” he continued. “Some people were better than we thought they were, some were worse than we thought they were. Hopefully I get a little better.”
BMC Racing started this Tour with the goal of reaching the final podium in Paris, and surprised many by riding so well through the first part of the Tour. BMC won the team time trial Sunday and kept van Garderen protected across the brutal first week of racing.
“Like we said from day one, we’re fighting for a podium spot, and we believe we can get one,” BMC Racing manager Jim Ochowicz told VeloNews. “He held his own, and we took a little time from people who were on our list of podium threats. He’s still in second, and the only guy who moved up a lot was Quintana. Everyone else is still on a draw. We’re good coming out here today.”