After several hard accelerations in the final 5 k of the race up to Monarch Mountain, Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) finally dropped somebody important. Sadly, it was his own teammate in the leaders jersey, Alex Howes. Goodbye, young man.
Danielson couldn’t drop Tejay van Garderen (BMC) or Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing) or Rafa Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) and he certainly couldn’t drop Carter Jones (Optum) who himself threw in several serious attacks.
Far worse for Danielson, he got dropped himself. “We made a plan to race to super aggressively, and it didn’t really turn out the way I wanted it to.” That passes for pro cycling understatement.
In the final kilometer, van Garderen suddenly put in a vicious attack and only Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) could latch onto his rear wheel. Danielson gone along with everyone else in the elite chase group.
The BMC captain and defending champion in Colorado drove to the line, and while Majka attempted to come around, he never did. This season Polish rider won a stage in the Giro d’Italia and two stages of the Tour de France but it was Van Garderen who won by three bike lengths.
Tactically, it took Van Garderen a while to sort the race out. “It was a little bit confusing out there, Garmin had the jersey but didn’t want to control the race. They wanted to ride aggressively and keep jumping, so it made for confusing tactics. To simplify it we put our team on the front to neutralize things, and to keep it under control. After the team rode all day yesterday and today, I think it’s awesome that I was able to pay them back with the stage win and the jersey.”
Danielson came to Colorado with a realistic view of his chances to win the race. And after the stage, he saw no reason to second guess his strategy. “We wanted to force them to ride to use their guys, but it turned out a little disappointing. I don’t have the same acceleration that Tejay has,” said Danielson. “I didn’t want it to come down to that. I didn’t want it to come down to 1km, that’s why I was attacking so much at the bottom, but there was so much headwind and it’s not a steep climb, so that’s all I can say.”
Maybe it was the headwind and the lack of gradient that forced Danelson to attack early and out of desperation. “With all due respect to Danielson, I think he got nervous,” van Garderen said. “He wanted to attack on his own, but didn’t want to commit to an attack. Every time he saw I was on his wheel he sat up, and then tried again. At the same time, he didn’t want anyone else to go up the road, so he covered those, too. I sensed he was nervous, that he’d wear himself out, and all I needed was one solid move, and that was all it took.”
Van Garderen now has the jersey and 20 seconds on Majka in second place overall, followed by Ben Hermans (BMC) 23 second behind. Tom Danielson limited his time loss but still finds himself in fourth, 34 seconds from the top step of the podium.