Tejay van Garderen has claimed no-one is more motivated than him to win the Amgen Tour of California, which the American now leads after winning the stage four individual time trial.
Van Garderen covered the 34.7km flat course in 40 minutes and 47 minutes to yank the leader’s jersey from Egan Bernal (Sky) with three stages remaining. The 29-year-old was seven seconds faster than BMC Racing teammate Patrick Bevin and 32 seconds over Tao Geoghegan Hart (Sky) on the outskirts of Silicon Valley.
Van Garderen perfectly executed a plan BMC Racing sports director Jackson Stewart had outlined to Cycling Central the day prior. Stewart, who lives near the course and had sent video of it months in advance, declared the time trial the definitive point for van Garderen, who altered his schedule to include the tour this season after a spate of crashes marred an original outlook.
The 2013 title champion leads Bernal by 23 seconds ahead of the 196.5km penultimate stage to South Lake Tahoe, which features seven categorised climbs.
Colombian rookie pro Bernal, 21, was a cut above the rest on Gibraltar Rd where he assumed race leadership. Speaking before the time trial, Stewart said South Lake Tahoe for BMC Racing would be about “limiting losses”. How it actually plays out remains to be seen.
“I think Tahoe is going to be a big test to the strength of the team. I think we have one of, if not the strongest team here,” van Garderen said.
“They’ll be able to control it and then we get to the upper slopes of the final climb, I’m going to have to stick with the climbers’ wheels. But from what I understand the climb is not as demanding as what we saw in Gibraltar. The altitude might be a factor but I’ve lived in Colorado and I was born in Montana. I’m no scrub when it comes to altitude so I think I should be able to handle that okay.
“For sure, there is going to be loads of attacks from all the guys who want to take this jersey,” he continued. “But as far as motivation goes, I’m probably the most motivated guy to keep it.”
Van Garderen replaced Bevin in the hot-seat in what was a bittersweet outcome for the Kiwi.
“It’s the second time trial now I’ve sat in the hot-seat and then finished second so can’t figure out if it’s better or worse when it’s a teammate,” Bevin said. “It’s a race of truth and there was no hiding out there. It’s great for the team to take a win and now we fight for the overall.”
The Amgen Tour of California continues on tomorrow with a 176.5km run from Stockton to Elk Grove for the sprinters.