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Van Garderen still hoping for Paris-Nice podium

BMC rider slips to 6th, defends white jersey

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Complete coverage of the 2012 Paris-Nice

MENDE, France (VN) — Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) didn’t quite have the legs to stay at the sharp end of the action in Thursday’s climbing stage at Paris-Nice and admitted he’s lost any chance to win.

Van Garderen slipped from third to sixth overall at 39 seconds back, but said he is hopeful the final podium is within range with Sunday’s climbing TT up Col d’Eze still on tap.

“The team rode perfect, I just wish I could have stayed a bit closer on the final climb,” van Garderen after the stage. “There’s not a chance I can win anymore, but a podium would be nice.”

Van Garderen lost the wheel with about 800m to go when Richie Porte pulled off and race leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky) took a big dig.

When GC threat Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) attacked with 500m to go, Wiggins went even deeper and van Garderen saw his victory hopes slipping away. Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) clung to the yellow jersey and the American, who defended the young rider’s white jersey, crossed the line 12th at 30 seconds back.

Van Garderen will have his work cut out for him if he hopes to reach the final podium in Nice, however.

Westra, now second at six seconds back, is no slouch in the time trial, while Leipheimer, now third at 10 seconds adrift, is a proven TT threat.

With a strong ride Sunday, van Garderen can expect to leap frog ahead of Valverde, fourth at 18 seconds back, and Simon Spilak (Lampre-ISD), fifth at 37 seconds, but he could find himself shut out of the podium.

“With the TT coming up, I am still in with a good shot for the podium,” he said. “A couple of guys in front of me are not TT specialists. I am hoping to get the podium back.”