Tough Day of Climbing Forces GC Shake Up on Stage 6 in California18. May 2018, South Lake Tahoe, California (USA) — Road Team
The penultimate stage in California was billed as the race’s queen stage and with hardly an inch of flat road along the 169.5km course, it lived up to the hype with Tejay van Garderen digging deep during a fierce battle of the General Classification contenders in the final kilometres to limit time loss at the finish in South Lake Tahoe.
The road rose from kilometer 0 on stage 6 and saw the riders tackle seven categorized climbs most significantly of which was the first category climb up Daggett Summit that peaked with 10.5km to go and led into a short descent towards the bottom of the kick up to the finish line.
After an initial battle to make the breakaway over the opening 15km of racing, nine riders went clear and were able to build up an advantage that was sitting at 4’25” at the top of the first KOM, Cedar Ravine Road Summit.
BMC Racing Team, riding in defense of the leader’s yellow jersey on the shoulders of van Garderen, was taking control of the race behind the leaders and never allowed the gap to grow beyond 5’30”.
The status quo remained the same heading over the next two climbs with the breakaway hovering between 4’30” and five minutes ahead of the main bunch before the pace picked up approaching the top of the category two Kirkwood Summit climb with just under 80km to go.
As a result, the gap started to fall quickly and the leaders were sitting just one minute ahead of the reduced main bunch, where van Garderen sat alongside Patrick Bevin, Brent Bookwalter, Joey Rosskopf, Michael Schär, and Danilo Wyss, going past the 50km to go mark.
There were only around 30 riders left in the peloton by the time the final two riders from the breakaway were swept up in the first half of the penultimate 12.1km climb, which had an average gradient of 6.1%.
With Egan Bernal starting the day just 23 seconds back on the General Classification at the start of the day, his Team Sky teammates were driving the pace on the climb, and consequently, the main bunch was whittled down considerably.
Van Garderen looked strong however as he stuck to the wheel of his closest rival before the attacks began with Bernal able to distance himself from the American rider, who sat in a six-rider chase group, one minute behind on the descent to the bottom of the final 1.7km ascent to the line.
The chasing group swelled to 12 riders as the road rose for the final time and van Garderen was responding valiantly to another series of attacks while up ahead, Bernal held on to take the stage win and the yellow leader’s jersey.
After giving it everything he had in the closing kilometers of the day, van Garderen eventually crossed the line seventh, 1’38” behind Bernal, and he now sits second on the General Classification, 1’25” back heading into tomorrow’s final stage.
Quotes From the Finish Line:
Tejay van Garderen:
"It was a hard day, and BMC Racing Team rode brilliantly. I was isolated on the final climb where Bernal made his move, and I fought as hard as I could. On days like this, the only thing you can do is tip your hat to your competitor. He is a young talent with a bright future, and I was simply overmatched."
"I’m happy with my form and I hope to continue this trajectory into my next events."
Sports Director, Jackson Stewart:
"We started the stage well. We controlled the race early on with Nathan Van Hooydonck and Danilo Wyss and there was a pretty good mix in the nine-rider breakaway so we were happy to let that go. We controlled the gap and our guys worked hard. Towards the end, Team Sky came up to the front and it was clear that they wanted to bring it back. On that penultimate climb, there was really two levels. There was Tejay's level and then there was Bernal's level. We started to lose time and the race slipped away from us. There not much you can do when a rider is just that much better on the climb."
"I don't want to be too down about today though. We gave our best out there. Not just Tejay, the whole team did their best. I think at this race, we showed that we are on a whole other level when it comes to time trials and Bernal, and Team Sky, showed the same only in the mountains and the race had more mountains than time trials. Of course, we're a little down about it but we needn't be. We need to be happy that we won a stage and that we are on the podium at the biggest race in America. It's not ideal but once you stop to think about it, I think we can be pleased."
AMGEN Tour of California
Stage 6: Folsom > South Lake Tahoe, 196.5km
Top 3: 1. Egan Bernal (Team Sky) 2. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 3. Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Sky)
BMC Racing Team Top 3: 7. Tejay van Garderen 31. Michael Schär 32. Brent Bookwalter
BMC Racing Team Flickr Gallery
See photos from the race.