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It was a tough day for Vuelta a España rookie Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia), who lost 30 minutes to slip out of the top-15, but Garmin-Transitions’ Tom Peterson and Tom Danielson were both on the sharp end of the action in Monday’s four-climb “queen stage” across the mountains of Asturias.
Van Garderen started the stage at 11th overall, but struggled with the high tempo set by Liquigas and Euskaltel-Euskadi in the 181.4km 16th stage from Gijón to Cotobello. Van Garderen finished 84th at 30:30 back and slotted into 30th overall at 35:09 behind new leader Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha).
“Tejay had a bad day today. He lost contact on the first climb, came back and then lost contact again on the second climb. It was very hard today. Only the strongest were able to stay at the front,” HTC-Columbia sport director Tristan Hoffman told VeloNews. “He will learn from it. He’s a neo-pro and he’s already had a great season. I am sure he will recover and finish the Vuelta off strong.”
HTC-Columbia also saw Peter Velits cede time when the attacks came on the final ramps of the Cotobello summit. The Czech rider crossed the line 15th and slotted into sixth overall at 4:27 back.
“Peter had to let go with 4km to go. We had hoped he could stay with the best, like he did yesterday, but we will see how he goes in the time trial,” Hoffman continued. “The pace was a little too hard for him in the end, but he wasn’t standing still either. He rode at his own rhythm and tried to not lose too much time. There’s still one more mountaintop finish. We still think he can finish in the top 5.”
Garmin-Transitions, meanwhile, wanted to put someone into the day’s main breakaway. The pace was fast and furious in the first hour, with riders such as Denis Menchov (Rabobank) failing to get into the move. Euskaltel was intent on getting its men into the move, eventually sending across Amets Txurruka and Mikel Nieve to the attacking group.
Grand tour rookie Peterson was the man who assured Garmin’s presence in the break. He rode well throughout the brutal stage, staying with the leaders until about 6km to go and then helping set the pace for teammate Danielson, who attacked off the front of the GC group on the Cotobello climb. Peterson crossed the line 16th on the stage and settled into 28th overall at 30:45 back.
“It was a great ride by Tom today. We wanted someone in the breakaway and Tom did a great job getting in there. Euskaltel was very strong today and they rode the perfect race today. Nieve was too strong in the end,” Garmin-Transitions sport director Bingen Fernández told VeloNews. “Tom is having a nice first grand tour. He was able to finish the stage very strong.”
Danielson came to life on the final climb, attacking off the front of the GC group on the lower ramps of the Cotobello summit finish with about 8km to go. Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Carlos Sastre (Cervélo) each bridged out before Danielson overcooked it and crossed the line 11th at 2:07 back. Despite losing time to the GC leaders, he actually improved his placing to seventh overall at 4:29 back.
“Tom said he would attack today and he did. It’s good that he tried instead of just sitting in the bunch. Schleck was the strongest of the GC group today and Tom tried to equal his pace and he blew up a little bit in the end,” Fernández explained. “Maybe he lost a little bit of time, but it was great to see him attack. He was in the action of the race. That’s more important. We think Tom can recover well and have a good time trial. The course is good for him. We still think he can finish in the top 5.”