Road

Garmin-Sharp goes big early in Colorado — but will it pay off late?

Garmin-Sharp fired a warning shot that the other teams in Colorado will be hearing all week long

TELLURIDE, Colorado (VN) — Dave Zabriskie rode so hard he threw up. Tom Danielson was off the front all day and nearly stole the stage and some precious seconds on the general classification. Tyler Farrar actually won the stage, and Peter Stetina was the most aggressive rider.

Garmin-Sharp came out swinging on day one of the USA Pro Challenge. And why not? Because if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

Garmin-Sharp lit up the climb out of Durango and drove a 22-man break, hoping to sneak Danielson across the line with time in hand. Plan B was a stage win for Farrar.

Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters said the tactic is one of necessity for a talented squad that perhaps lacks a GC rider who can make the race on his own.

“I figured we’ve got a lot of really good riders in this race, but we always seem to end up second and third and fourth,” Vaughters said. “I figured we’ve got to come up with a way to actually use the fact that we do have a lot of depth but we just don’t have that one guy who can come up with the knockout punch.

“So I figured, all right, first day, right out of the hole, let’s see what we can do.”

What they did was fire a warning salvo across Colorado that Garmin is looking to race all week. The tactic immediately put BMC Racing, the strongest team on paper here, on their heels.

“It was not good for us, so we ended up working the whole day,” BMC assistant director Mike Sayers said. “We were just lucky to bring the break back.”

Director Charly Wegelius said the team rode as scripted.

“We had a very clear plan this morning about riding an aggressive race. And the riders pulled it off to the letter, I think,” Wegelius said. “We know that this kind of tactic brings risk with it, but we’re aware of it, and we’ve taken the decision to do it, and you can see the results. You have to speculate to accumulate, you know?”

And accumulate Garmin did. The team hauled in jerseys for overall leader and points (Farrar); king of the mountains (Danielson); and most aggressive rider (Stetina).

Danielson appeared to be the man of the day when he and Stetina were the only riders left from a breakaway that included Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and George Hincapie (BMC). But the move faded on the run-in along the valley floor to Telluride, and he and Stetina were pulled back.

It was a hard effort for Danielson, but Wegelius said he wasn’t worried that his rider dug too deep in light of Tuesday’s uphill finish in Mt. Crested Butte.

“Not at all,” he said. “He’s got lots of talent. Everybody knows that. So if he can keep it nice and simple, there’s nothing that can stand in his way, I don’t think.”

Especially if he has support from riders like Zabriskie — Vaughters said Captain America “went so deep that he just puked.”

“I’m pushing 50 years old these days,” Zabriskie said after the stage. “I was going pretty hard, pretty deep … the body said, ‘Stop,’ and spirit said, ‘You’re puking.’” The last time he threw up due to exertion was after climbing the Tourmalet in the Tour de France.

“But that was in the bus,” he added.

It could have gone better. But not much.

“Obviously, as far as overall picture, I wish Tom and Pete would have arrived a minute in front of the group. But there were quite a few other people who didn’t want that to happen,” Vaughters said.

BMC, namely. The route was nearly all uphill, and saw rain showers. The effort may have a ripple effect on future stages, according to Sayers.

“Garmin burned a lot of matches today and we burned a lot of matches today,” he said. “I think that might change the dynamic of the race a little bit.”

Garmin, meanwhile, isn’t concerned.

“You can’t worry about whether you’re saving enough energy,” said Vaughters. “You just have to say, ‘Okay, these are the cards we’re playing and damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.’”