After another difficult day in the Pyrenees during stage 12 of the Tour de France, Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) remains firmly entrenched in the second spot overall, 2:52 behind race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) and 17 seconds ahead of Movistar’s Nairo Quintana.
Van Garderen survived a barrage of attacks from Quintana, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) over the final kilometres to the finish at Plateau de Beilleto to maintain his runner-up spot.
The 26-year-old American, who was isolated on the final legs of the climb after teammate Samuel Sanchez lost the pace, showed his growing experience by waiting for Froome’s team to keep matters under control.
“I knew Sky had a really strong team and they were going to kind of neutralise all the dangerous guys, so when they were jumping I just sat behind Sky to make sure that they could pull them back,” a seemingly cool and confident van Garderen said as he sat in a team car following the stage.
“Hopefully those guys keep doing that so they can waste a few of their bullets, and then in the third week they might pay the price.”
While Team Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez, who started the day more than 20 minutes off Froome’s time, was up the road soloing away for the stage win, team Sky’s Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas shepherded Froome toward the finish, with van Garderen tucked neatly in their slipstream.
Contador, who is more than four minutes down in the GC, attacked multiple times in the closing kilometres, as did Quintana and his teammate Alejandro Valverde. Vincenzo Nibali also launched an attack, but the efforts were mostly fruitless as first Porte, then Thomas patiently brought each of the attackers back.
Van Garderen benefited from the Sky efforts, finishing on the same time with his main general classification rivals. Only Valverde, with a series of late attacks, was able to gain a single second on the group.
“There were a few guys that I needed to mark, guys who are close to me on time, and I feel like I did a pretty good job staying close to them and staying within my limits,” van Garderen said. “So, yeah, it’s all going to plan.”
Van Garderen was obviously happy to leave the Pyrenees with his podium position intact, but he’s mindful that there are still plenty of challenges remaining at this year’s Tour.
“We still have a couple of tough finishes before we get to the next rest day,” he said. “That climb to Mende, I remember racing there in 2012 Paris-Nice, and man, that thing is steep. So there’s going to be a GC shake-up there, but I have my eyes pretty firmly set on the Alps.”