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"Rafal Majka is still kind of the question mark. He is obviously riding really well, so I am glad I have 20 seconds on him. As long as I keep my wits about me, I will be OK."

Photo: Sirotti






23.08.2014 @ 13:02 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Tejay van Garderen defended his leader's jersey in yesterday's final mountain stage of the USA Pro Challenge but was again unable to drop Rafal Majka on the final climb. The American admits to being a bit uncertain about the Pole ahead of today's decisive mountain time trial.


BMC Racing Team's Tejay van Garderen finished ninth and held onto the overall lead Friday at the USA Pro Challenge, but teammate Ben Hermans struggled in the rain and cold and slipped from third to ninth in the overall standings. Luxembourg national time trial champion Laurent Didier (Trek Factory Racing) won the 168-klilometer stage ahead of Javier Acevedo (Garmin-Sharp) and Rob Britton (Team Smartstop) as survivors of an original 12-man breakaway.


Van Garderen finished in a group of five 93 seconds later, gaining time on five of the seven riders immediately behind him in the overall standings. Heading into Saturday's individual time trial in Vail, van Garderen leads Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) by 20 seconds, Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly presented by Maxxis) by 37, Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) by 39 and Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing) by 51. No other riders are within a minute of the defending champion, who last year set the record on the 16.1-km course that steadily rises up in the last five kilometers.


"I feel good, I feel confident," van Garderen said. "Rafal Majka is still kind of the question mark. He is obviously riding really well, so I am glad I have 20 seconds on him. As long as I keep my wits about me, I will be OK."

Van Garderen said he was content to see the breakaway stay ahead on a day when the race reached its highest point – Hoosier Pass at 3,517 meters – and wind and rain battered the peloton for hours.


"It took a really long time for the break to get going, and with the cold temperatures, we didn't want to get greedy and go for the stage and bring the guys back," van Garderen said. "We just wanted to conserve our guys as much as possible and keep the break in check, making sure it didn't get too much time.


"I was trying to get as much time before the time trial as possible to have a comfortable buffer. I saw that some of the other guys were hurting, so I could take advantage of that. It was freezing out there. It was definitely one of those days where it's mind over matter."


One casualty of the adverse conditions was Hermans, who had dropped back to get dry clothing on a climb when the peloton accelerated.


"He was just trying to get warm because it was a ridiculous stage – the weather was just nuts," Sport Director Jackson Stewart said. "He just never got contact back and our other guys could not wait for him because they were watching over Tejay. It was really unfortunate."


Hermans, who finished 25th, 76 seconds behind van Garderen's group, said it was disappointing the weather was the decisive factor.


"But that's racing, that's cycling," he said. "Sometimes I am at an advantage when it is hot weather and I really like it hot. Today it was cold, so the others were at an advantage."



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