Van Garderen uses cojones in Aspen. New man in yellow.

Tejay Van Garderen put it succinctly: “I have balls.”

He was talking about how he took over the yellow leaders’ jersey in the US PRo Cycling Challenge on the queen bitch mountain stage by bombing the wet descent into Aspen.

In the press conference, Van Garderen said he knew he had an edge over Levi Leipheimer because “he’s not the strongest descender.” The young HTC-Highroad rider said “if you lose your nerve, you ca lose minutes.”

Almost — Leipheimer lost 45 seconds and the jersey while Tejay won in front of his girlfriend and family in his hometown of Aspen.

“I couldn’t have picked a better day to take the jersey, said Van Garderen. Just more proof that balls are as essential as good legs.

When Van Garderen saw that a large group of twenty riders was still together at the top of the final Independence climb, he decided to drop anyone who wasn’t in possession of some cojones.

That meant Radio Shack’s Leipheimer and a dozen pretenders. Garmin-Cervelo’s Tom Danielson, a former mountain biker, had no trouble with the sketchy descent and neither did experienced classics rider George Hincapie.

They blasted into the Aspen, the resort playground of the rich and famous, with Hincapie taking the sprint and Tejay settling for second but the far bigger prize and perhaps the entire stage race.

Although Van Garderen is still just a kid, he rides to win, seems oblivious to pressure and reeks laid-back confidence. When asked about the difficulties of the Vail time trial tomorrow, he said, “it seems like a course that doesn’t require a whole lot of thought.” That’s the thing about Van Garderen — he can’t help but sound cocky even when he isn’t.

Then again, the other way of looking at that is, he’s got balls.

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