This is something that didn’t happen in the 2013 Tour de France: Tejay van Garderen accelerating away from Sky’s Chris Froome and tour revelation Nairo Quintana of Movistar on a nasty mountain climb.
Less than a year later, March 27th to be exact, van Garderen has proof that his Winter work to improve his climbing has paid impressive dividends. He showed the first flashes on the Green Mountain in the Tour of Oman, riding up front and finishing in the select group with Froome.
Then today on stage 4 of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, the Queen stage, van Garderen sprinted the final 100 meters up the Vallter 2000 climb to beat Froome, the red-hot Alberto Contador and race leader Joaquim Rodriguez. Could van Garderen have shown that kind of wattage and confidence last year?
The Spanish throw an “Especial” at the end of the Vallter 2000 name which must mean extra painful — it’s 12k with an average grade of 7.8% but a special section at 12%. That sorted out the true contenders and while both Froome and Contador attacked for the win, it was van Garderen who played the moves perfectly and put in the final killer acceleration. Chapeau daddy-o.
Not that he didn’t suffer on the bike in those miserable, freezing conditions that included some snowfall. “It was very cold,” said van Garderen. “Froome and Contador both attacked and it seemed like everybody was sitting and looking at each other and I made a move and nobody followed me.”
Now van Garderen can put that down to his hard training regime, his mental toughness and his stronger than ever confidence, but maybe it was also because he shivered just a little less. “I think I got a little lucky and the cold helped me a little bit, I can maybe cope with it a little better than those guys who weigh 60 kilos.”
As in, skinny Chris Froome was freezing to death, tiny Nairo Quintana was crying for a warm blanket and Joaquim Rodriguez turned nearly purple with hypothermia.
Every since his won the overall in the 2013 Tour of California and US Pro Cycling Challenge, van Garderen has upped his confidence levels to a noticeable degree. He’s more confident in his tactical decisions and that came out loud and clear when he discussed the final chess moves. “It got steep in the last two kilometers so if you made a move before that and you’re on the flat it’s not so smart,” said van Garderen. “I let the guys do a couple of little attacks first so they could wear each other out and then I made my move.”
The stage win in Catalunya was another big step up for van Garderen as he builds toward his first Tour de France as BMC captain.
“It’s my first WorldTour win. There are Grand Tour winners here like Froome and Contador and it’s a huge honor to be riding alongside those names.”
Yes, he had those “good sensations” and yes, team boss Allan Peiper is pouring the champagne tonight. Tejay just kicked some Tour-quality ass.