Garmin-Barracuda flexes muscles in California

American squad is pressing the race in the opening stages of the Amgen Tour of Calfornia

LIVERMORE, California (VN) — The Amgen Tour of California has yet to take shape in the general classification, but one team has begun to assert itself over the peloton, firing the opening salvos in a GC fight that will go all the way to the summit of Mount Baldy on Saturday.

For the second day in a row at the Amgen Tour, the blue and white of Garmin-Barracuda came to the front of the race Tuesday and showed, if only for a few kilometers, that it’s perhaps the strongest team in California.

“I think it’s pretty incredible, really,” said Andrew Talansky, one of Garmin’s two GC threats. “We have a really young team at this race, but it’s clearly a very strong team, and everyone is super motivated and it’s good.”

During Monday’s technical descent off the back of Bonny Doon, Garmin went to the front of the peloton and pressed the pace. Director sportif Jonathan Vaughters said it was to keep the team clear from danger, but it showed top organization and ability from the UCI’s no. 11 ranked team.

On Tuesday, the same day its Ryder Hesjedal lost his maglia rosa in Italy, Garmin revealed a bit more of its depth, when the team went to the head of the peloton before the day’s final climb, Patterson Pass, and split the race in a crosswind. Only a sharp turn into a headwind before the climb could take the bite out of the effort from Tom Danielson’s troops, and four groups on the road again became one.

“The team’s riding really well,” Danielson said. “They’re just super strong, and we haven’t really used the whole team yet. Just watching those guys ride strong is really nice. We’ve got to be aggressive. We’ve got one of the best teams in the race. I just felt like the moment was right before the climb with the crosswind so we tried something, and I think it worked. We got rid of a lot of the sprinters.”

This iteration of the Amgen Tour is waiting for a general classification shakedown, which will commence Thursday in Bakersfield with the individual time trial and crescendo on Saturday above Los Angeles, atop the Baldy climb that hits gradients of 15 percent in places. Until then, it’s been wait-and-see for the GC, though Garmin’s begun to show a bit of its hand.

The team’s sprinter, Heinrich Haussler, has finished second on every stage to Peter Sagan and now sits second on the general classification. The team is poised with GC contenders Talansky and Danielson, and has shown its able to control the front of the race.

Talansky said the efforts Tuesday served as fuel for the Garmin fire. “Things like that really motivate the guys and show everyone in the race we’re a strong team. We can take control when we need to so if, or when we have the jersey, we’ll be able to do that.”

Danielson said that it may seem like a waiting game outside the peloton, but the race is bearing down with each mile. “Every day is difficult and challenging. Although it ends in a sprint and it seems like we just all ride together to the line, it’s not at all. Anyone could lose a race on any one of these days. Like today, we attacked in a crosswind,” he said. “It could have ended some guy’s race right there.”