Bernal versus Van Garderen
Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) is confident he can win the Tour of California today in the Sierra mountains.
We can’t go all he way to swagger because Van Garderen is from the “hopefully” school of pre-race quotations. Still, he sounds like he’s in command of the situation despite the imminent attacks of Colombian climber Egan Bernal (Team Sky) who sits just 23 seconds behind him.
“I know I’m strong. I know Sky is going to race aggressively and they’re also strong,” said Van Garderen. “I also have a strong team. I have a guy sitting in 10th place [Brent Bookwalter – ed.] who’s no scrub on the climbs, so I like where I’m at. I’d rather be in first going into tomorrow than second.”
That’s the sound of a man who likes his odds of winning his second Tour of California. Confidence hasn’t been on huge display for Van Garderen the last few seasons. Health, bad luck, mysterious disappearances of form and a fall down the team hierarchy have all put Van Garderen on the back foot. Perhaps California will signal a re-energized rider who will head to the Tour de France as the domestique deluxe for teammate Richie Porte.
However, there is still Bernal and a few high mountains to conquer. The 196.5km sixth stage from Folsom to South Lake Tahoe throws out two category 3 climbs, three category 2 climbs and two category 1climbs to make sure everyone has a hard day in the saddle.
The summit finish will force the riders one mile up the road at a grade of 5.9% to the Heavenly Mountain resort. Should he win the overall, Van Garderen will enjoy the panoramic view from 6570 feet — plus the height of the podium.
Where Sky and Bernal will launch attacks is anyone’s guess but that doesn’t seem to worry Van Garderen. “The thing is, if you try to plan for too many scenarios, then you’re just going to end up over thinking it. I’m just going to try and be prepared for whatever they throw at me.”