TOULOUSE, France (VN) — Tejay van Garderen (BMC) put the Pyrénées in the rearview mirror while maintaining his second-place overall on Thursday, checking off another difficult stage in a Tour de France that’s going “according to plan,” the American said.
Van Garderen was able to mark a string of moves from Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), as each sought to put time into race leader Chris Froome (Sky). Van Garderen followed Sky as it shut down each effort and rolled across the finish with a mostly intact group of favorites.
The American never put in a dig, preferring to wait until the Alps.
“I knew Sky had a really strong team, and they were going to try to neutralize any of the attacks of all the dangerous guys,” van Garderen said. “So when they were jumping, I just sat behind Sky to make sure they pulled them back. Hopefully, those guys will keep doing that so they waste a few of their bullets. Then, in the third week, they might pay the price.”
Contador was the first to fly off the front, but his move was quickly neutralized by Sky. Nibali went next, followed by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). A string of moves followed, each reeled by in by Sky.
“There were two guys who I needed to mark, guys who I was close to on time,” van Garderen said. “I feel like I did a good job of staying close to them and staying within my limits. It is all going according to plan.”
BMC forgoed its chance in the day’s successful breakaway in favor of keeping the team around van Garderen, according to BMC sport director Yvon Ledanois, but it may send riders up the road over the coming transition stages between the Pyrénées and the Alps.
“We talked with the riders this morning, and we don’t want to take the breakaway. [We want to stay] all together with Tejay,” he said. “Tomorrow maybe is one day for [a] breakaway, but today the most important is [to] stay with Tejay, all together.”
Van Garderen came into the final climb with five teammates, proof that the team around him is riding well. His legs are only improving each day, Ledanois said.
“I’m happy with the result, after the Pyrénées, we keep the second place in the GC. For the moment, it’s the most important for him,” he said. “I think Tejay [van Garderen] was a little bit better the second day, better today. Tejay is motivated, and he has the legs for the task.”