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"I could sense Danielson's attacks were getting a little weaker and he was tired from doing so much work. I was a little worried that Majka was going to come around me at the finish, but I was just able to hold him off."

Photo: Sirotti








21.08.2014 @ 12:58 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Going into the queen stage, Tejay van Garderen had done nothing to hide that he regarded Tom Danielson as his biggest rival but the BMC leader easily distance the Garmin captain with a strong attack 1km from the finish. With Danielson having made multiple attacks, van Garderen sensed that his rival was getting tired and this was the signal for him to make his move.


Tejay van Garderen of the BMC Racing Team powered ahead of Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) in the closing meters of Wednesday's summit finish at Monarch Mountain to win Stage 3 of the USA Pro Challenge and take the race lead. 


When van Garderen attacked out of a small group with a kilometer left in the 154.9-km race, only Majka – a Tour de France stage winner this year – could follow. The pair finished 20 seconds ahead of third-placed Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly presented by Maxxis) as van Garderen became the first rider in the four-year history of the race to win a stage three straight years.


Van Garderen said he decided to make his move when he saw Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) in difficulty. Danielson was third to van Garderen at this race a year ago and last week won the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.


"I could sense Danielson's attacks were getting a little weaker and he was tired from doing so much work," van Garderen said. "I was a little worried that Majka was going to come around me at the finish, but I was just able to hold him off.


"Danielson was the biggest concern, then Majka. We were in a good position, and we also had Ben Hermans, so we could play with that a little bit. Danielson was the biggest concern with us. Now I’m thinking we’re going to need to watch Majka the most.


"The thing is, Danielson, all due respect to him, but I think he got a little nervous. He wanted to attack on his own, but he never seemed like he wanted to commit to an attack. It seemed like every time he saw me on his wheel, he sat up. He also didn’t want anyone else to go up the road, so not only was he doing his own attacks, he was jumping with all the other attacks.


"I could just sense that he was nervous, so I thought, okay, I’ll just sit behind him, he’ll wear himself out a bit with all his jumping, and then all I need is just one solid move, and that’s all it took."


Majka's second-place finish moved him into second overall, 20 seconds back, and three seconds ahead of third-placed Ben Hermans, van Garderen's teammate who was third on Stage 1. Hermans finished fourth on the stage, 24 seconds back.


"I was feeling good and responding to the attacks of Danielson until two kilometers to go, then the altitude was hard for me," Hermans said. "I suffered hard. And when Tejay attacked, I could not follow. He went away like a motorbike."


In winning his second race of the season, van Garderen also took the lead in the king of the mountains classification and earned the "best Colorado rider" jersey. His other victory this year also came on a mountain-top finish, at the Volta a Catalunya, in late March.


"I feel good and I have the advantage of living at altitude and being acclimated," van Garderen said. "Plus, there is the fact that I have the home crowd on my side as well as the strongest team in the race." 

Like it did on Tuesday's stage, the BMC Racing Team took control of the race at its mid-point to reduce the peloton. Yannick Eijssen, Martin Kohler, Peter Stetina and Rick Zabel helped with the chase of two attacks before Brent Bookwalter and Michael Schär took over to set up van Garderen and Hermans for the finish.


"We could tell Tejay was really strong right from the start, on the first climb," Bookwalter said. "That really inspired me to work hard, dig deep and go all the way to the end."


Sport Director Jackson Stewart said when Garmin-Sharp was the early aggressor, the BMC Racing Team responded.


"Garmin really wanted to make it a hard race – and they did – with the help of a lot of other teams," Stewart said. "We managed to take the punches and were still standing. All the guys really worked hard. Oddly enough, some of our guys actually had bad days and were still able to manage and cope with it."

Van Garderen said he is confident the team has enough horsepower to hold the lead through to Saturday's individual time trial in Vail. Last year, he won the time trial in record time en route to the overall win.


"We had to control yesterday and we had to control today because both days, the yellow jersey team had no interest in defending the lead," he said. "So this makes it more straightforward and we have an incredibly strong team here. So I am not worried at all.


"When I look at the Garden of Gods circuit [for Thursday's stage], I see a 17-percent grade, four times; that’s not that easy. I think we have the strongest team here.


"Ben Hermans is still in third place overall, and he hasn’t even touched the wind yet. If we need to, we can pull him out and have him defend, because he’s got a big engine that we’ve kept fresh this whole time. But I don’t think we’ll even need to because I think the rest of the team is up to the challenge."

Hermans said the next two days will be important ones for him to hang onto his third place overall and help the BMC Racing Team keep its lead in the team classification.


"If I have the legs I have had the first three days, then normally I am going to be good," he said. "Then, for the GC (general classification), it is only the time trial that is important."



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