Bernal crushes Van Garderen to win Tour of California

Bernal, seconds after victory. photo twisted spoke

Tejay Van Garderen emptied himself on the road up to Heavenly and there’s no shame in second place. It’s hard to argue with a young star from Colombia who seems destined for greater glories and perhaps grand tour victories. It’s Nairo Quintana junior all over again.

The Coloradan enetered the queen stage with roughly a minute to give up to Egan Bernal of Team Sky. That buffer seems a decent enough amount to play with but then again, Bernal has already been anointed as a future star.

It was Bernal who destroyed the peloton on stage two’s lactic wildfire up Gibraltar road, a display that wiped out the GC podium hopes of several riders including Peter Stetina (Trek Segafredo), Lachland Morton (Dimension Data), and a former Sky domestique Ian Boswell who now rides for Katusha. Boswell now had more freedom but the legs, sadly, were not even enough to match the wattage of Tour revelation Tao Geoghegan Hart of Team Sky.

Tao post stage. photo twisted spoke

When the attacks came, they came hard and early and vicious. With nearly 14 kilometers to the finish, Sky played a one-two punch on the Daggett climb, first launching Tao Geoghegan Hart up the road and when Van Garderen gamely tried to close that gap, it was Bernal’s turn to disrupt the race. In minutes he was up the road, flying free, gaining time with every pedal stroke. The clock told a sad story for Van Garderen who gave everything and rode to his highest abibilty only to watch his jersey disappear.

It was a textbook kill-the-rival strategy. “When I attacked with 10km to go, I was just thinking that I had to push as hard as I could,” said Bernal. “I had to do my best because the team worked so hard for me today. “It wasn’t really until the last climb, with 1.5km to go, that I thought I could maybe win the race.”

Van Garderen moments after finish. photo twisted spoke

Bernal followed the Mark Cavendish thank-the-team script to perfection. “The team was so strong, and I’m very proud of the guys, including all the staff and the directeurs sportifs, They’ve been amazing and have done a great job for me this week,” said Bernal. “I’m just so proud to be in this team, and this victory is for them.”

The sprint stage in and around Sacramento is a ceremonial affair for Gaviria, Cavendish, Kittel and Sagan but the overall is done done and dusted. It’s an ironic and uplifting set of events for Team Sky as over in Italy they watch four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome implode from a combination of bad luck, crashes, hubris and legal stress from his salbutamol case. Should Froome receive a suspension, then Bernal is the next man up, the savior in waiting, an obvious plug and play.

Overall, Bernal now leads the race by 1:25 over van Garderen, with EF-Drapac’s Dani Martinez retaining his third place, 2:14 behind Bernal. Race over, pop champagne, get a few kisses.

 

 

 

 

 

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