Stage 2 of the Tour de France from Utrecht to Zelande was a bittersweet day for BMC Racing, with Tejay van Garderen gaining time on a number of his rivals but overnight race leader Rohan Dennis slipping out of the yellow jersey.
Van Garderen and the bulk of his team were present and accounted for when the peloton split in the crosswinds, while Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) both lost 1:28 by the time they crossed the line behind stage winner Andre Greipel. Dennis was unable to make the front group and BMC were caught in two minds as to whether they should press on or wait for Dennis, ultimately deciding that the pursuit of van Garderen’s GC ambitions were paramount.
“Like I said in my press conference, no news is good news so we weren’t looking to gain time. We just weren’t looking to lose time. At the time we were just focusing on the wheels in front of us and we weren’t really paying attention to who was behind,’ van Garderen said of the moment the race split.
“We just wanted to stay safe and at the front. It just so happened that a lot of leaders were caught out.”
Alberto Contador and Chris Froome both made the lead group, along with van Garderen and a volley of Etixx-QuickStep riders. Quintana was the first to concede ground, followed by Nibali. BMC eventually contributed to the pacesetting at the front of the race although Alberto Contador was later critical of the American team, claiming they could have put more effort into distancing two key men in Nibali and Quintana. At the end of the day, van Garderen stood in eighth place overall, four seconds ahead of Froome, 16 seconds ahead of Contador, 1:25 ahead of Nibali and 1:45 in front of Quintana.
“It’s good news for us," van Garderen said. "But it was a tough call to make out there with our yellow jersey behind and for a while we were thinking not to work so he could catch up but then all the other GC guys would catch up. It was a tough call out there.”
As for Dennis, he understandably walked into the BMC team bus, leaving his yellow painted race bike to cut a disconsolate figure outside. Van Garderen was quick to praise his Australian teammate and added that the squad would rally around their time trial winner.
“He’s professional and he understands," van Garderen said. "He knows what the stakes are. I’m sure that he will be disappointed, but no one can take the result from yesterday away from him. I’m sure he’s still going to have fond memories and we’ll console him tonight.
“it was a tough call as we had all our guys there. All we were missing was Rohan. For a while we weren’t riding but then gap moved out and we realised that we could put a lot of time into the GC guys. At the end it was the right call. I feel bad for Rohan and wish he was in that move with us.”
Monday’s stage finishes on the Mur and will see the climbers and classics specialists feature. It’s another day that could be decided by the weather and the tight roads as the race dips into Belgium. Despite his strong position in GC, van Garderen, rather wisely, isn’t getting ahead of himself.
“A lot can happen," he said. "Seconds turn to minutes in the mountains so you can never be too high or too low. Today was a good day for us on GC but you have to just stay calm and stay focused for the next day."