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Alex Howes (Garmin Sharp) is devasted after losing two minutes
Aggressive tactics backfire on Monarch Mountain
On a day when the Garmin Sharp team announced its merger with the Cannondale squad, the American team was unable to celebrate further in the USA Pro Challenge, as despite its best efforts the team could not crack defending champion Tejay van Garderen on what team director Charly Wegelius deemed as the best chance to do so.
On the 10-mile climb to the Monarch Mountain summit finish, Garmin threw everything they could at the BMC captain, but Janier Acevedo and Tom Danielson were unable to make him sweat, and the morning's race leader Alex Howes was jettisoned by his own teammate's attacks, and ended up two minutes down on the stage winner, van Garderen, who took the race leader's jersey off his shoulders.
"It was not the result we wanted, but we race to win. The objective was to win the entire race with Tom, Wegelius said. "We knew with the final climb, with the grade not being super hard, and the headwind, we had to make the race as hard as possible. I'm really please with the way the guys did exactly the way we hoped they would. At the end of the day, if two guys are stronger than us, then that's bike racing."
After a fast start where Garmin tried to get into several breakaways to force BMC to chase, it was Acevedo who finally sparked the main move of the day when he attacked near the base of the first ascent of Monarch Pass. Once at the top, he had been joined by a group with both van Garderen and Danielson, but with a long plunge into the valley to Salida, a few flat kilometers around the town then the long grind back up the pass ahead, it would be a tall ask to keep such a small group away.
"We had to keep going for a while to see how it developed in the town [Salida]," Wegelius said. "After that it was pretty much set. At the end of the day, the situation was that Tejay is going to be advantaged in the time trial, and the race had to be done today. We had to race as hard as possible to see if we could break him. At the end of the day it didn't work but we're happy with how we raced."
Wegelius would not let any information about the Cannondale merger slip, saying only, "It's good for the team, we have a secure future, but we have to focus on this race and finish the season as best as we can with the races coming up."
He remained equally cagey regarding the rumoured signings of riders like Elia Viviani from the Cannondale team. "Transfer season opened on the first of August. As we do every year we'll announce new signings and changes in the team in due course," he said.