MORGAN HILL — Tejay van Garderen’s return to the Amgen Tour of California is proving successful after a rousing victory Wednesday in the individual time trial.
Competing in California for the first time since winning the weeklong race in 2013, van Garderen overcame BMC Racing teammate Patrick Bevins to win on a 21.6-mile course in the South Bay.
The Montana rider grabbed the yellow jersey from pre-stage leader Egan Bernal of Colombia, setting up a dramatic showdown in the Sierra Nevada on the penultimate stage Friday. Van Garderen leads Bernal by 23 seconds.
“Today was my big power play,” he told NBC after the finish. “It went exceedingly well.”
Van Garderen, 29, won Wednesday in a time of 40 minutes 47 seconds, seven seconds ahead of Bevin. The BMC Racing Team cyclists were the only riders to break 41 minutes along the rolling course.
Van Garderen now owns victories in two of the three-time trials that have been held in the South Bay during the tour’s 13-year history. Van Garderen won the time trial five years ago that ended with a wicked uphill climb to Motorcycle County Park. He used the stage win to take the overall crown.
Van Garderen expects to return to the Tour de France in July after competing in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana last year. He has finished fifth twice at the Tour, the world’s most prestigious cycling event.
He opened the cycling season with no plans to race in California but everything changed after enduring crashes in Paris-Nice and before the Volta a Catalunya.
“I was looking at the programs thinking, ‘OK, how can I make up some race days,’ ” van Garderen told reporters before the tour. “They said, ‘What if you go back to California?’ At first, I was like, ‘Pump the brakes.’ It’s a lot of travel and stuff. But then when I started thinking about it, it was an idea that got me really motivated.”
The 116 riders took off in downtown Morgan Hill in reverse order ending with pre-stage leader Egan Bernal of Colombia. They pedaled tricked-out time bikes as furiously as cartoon characters over a 21.6-mile course that dipped into Coyote Valley in San Jose before returning to Morgan Hill along vacant back country roads adorned with wildflowers.
The competitors enjoyed a glorious Bay Area day with billowing coastal clouds providing a cool cover overhead. But the spring gusts added another energy-sapping dimension.
“The wind …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Sports