In an uphill battle to the finish, stage 5’s Vail time trial saw BMC’s Tejay van Garderen (USA) cross the line with the fastest time, taking home the stage win and solidifying his hold on the overall lead.
Destroying the record from 2011 when the race used the same course (25:47 by Levi Leipheimer), van Garderen put up an impressive mark of 25:01, just four seconds ahead of fellow American Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp).
“It was certainly a tough effort. I don’t even know how to describe it,” said van Garderen. “Up there, your lungs are searing in the thin air. I was trying to be conservative on the way up, doing my best to keep the pace, but it’s still such a difficult thing to do when you’re at 10,000 ft. I was surprised that I got the stage win because I felt pretty bad coming in there at the end. Hopefully we can hold this jersey through Denver.”
On a course the dates back to one of the most iconic races in U.S. cycling history, the Coors Classic, the route took the riders on a 10-mile journey up the west side of Vail Pass. The gentle grades of the first half of the course gave way to a steady climb for the last three miles. With costumed fans that had hiked to the top to cheer the riders on lining the steepest part of the climb, one by one the cyclists crossed the line, many falling over with exhaustion.
On an uphill time trial course such as this, the riders had to be strategic. If they went too hard early, the finish climb was too much, but if they conserved too much for the climb, the leaderboard may have been out of reach.
After being the sixth person to ride out of the start house in Vail Village, Jason McCartney (USA) of Bissell Pro Cycling put up a time of 27:49 that would hold for the first hour of the race. Kanstantsin Siutsou (BLR) of Sky Procycling was next in the hot seat, at 26:17, a time that would stick for a good part of the day and eventually place him seventh.
Finally Talansky posted what was at the time a record breaking mark, taking the overall lead until the final rider crossed the line.
With the day coming to a close and the top-ranked riders getting ready to head out on their test against the clock, everyone was waiting to see if Talansky’s time could be beaten. As one of the last riders to hit the course, Tom Danielson (USA) of Team Garmin-Sharp pushed the pace to get the fastest time possible. Unfortunately though, his effort wouldn’t be enough and he would end up in third.
“Today’s course was really challenging from a time trial standpoint,” said Danielson. “For one, it’s really challenging to figure out what equipment to use (ropad or TT bike). It was also difficult to tell how to pace yourself. We just tried to be smart about it. I raced pretty evenly the whole time and did the best I could.”
The last one out of the gate, van Garderen posted the fastest split of the day, leaving people wondering if he could maintain his pace and take the win from Talansky. With fans cheering and beating on the barriers at the top of Vail Pass, van Garderen pulled out the win, besting the top time by four seconds.
“It was certainly a hard effort. I don’t even know how to describe it,” van Garderen said. “Your lungs are searing up there in that thin air.”
Van Garderen added that he was surprised to hear he had won the stage – his second in the race that has previously seen him finish third overall in 2011 and runner-up last year. “You could see on TV that my cadence dropped and I kind of died there in the last two kilometers,” he said. “I was still paying for my effort in the beginning, which I thought was conservative.”
Stage 5 Results
1. Tejay van Garderen (USA) of BMC Racing Team, 25:01
2. Andrew Talansky (USA) of Team Garmin-Sharp, at 0:04
3. Tom Danielson (USA) of Team Garmin-Sharp, at 1:02
1. Tejay van Garderen (USA) of BMC Racing Team
2. Mathias Frank (SUI) of BMC Racing Team, at 1:30
3. Tom Danielson (USA) of Team Garmin-Sharp, at 1:42
Saturday, Aug. 24 – Loveland to Ft. Collins (185.4 km/115.2 mi)
Start Time: 11:35 a.m. MT
Estimated Finish Time: 4:15 p.m. MT
Satellite Feed Time: 5-5:15 p.m. MT
With a flat speed-fest slated for Sunday in Denver, Danielson and his Garmin teammates will have only this stage left to make a move. The outskirts of Loveland will see the racers off as they spend some early miles on the flat windswept plains passing through Windsor and back to Loveland. Then it’s up Big Thompson Canyon where things will heat up. Split north onto Devils Gultch, the race’s last King of the Mountains competition, before hitting Estes Park and back down Big Thompson. Horsetooth Reservoir provides one last chance for aggression on its steep rollers. If no one gets away here, look for Peter Sagan to get another stage win.