American matches Pinot and Bardet
Tejay van Garderen had his dreams of a podium place dashed on stage 16 of the Tour de France, but the BMC rider bounced back on the slopes of the Pla d'Adet to retain his sixth place overall.
He may have lost time to Christophe Peraud, Alejandro Valverde and race leader Vincenzo Nibali on the stage, but by finishing alongside Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet he lives to fight another day and is 2:43 from fifth placed Bardet. Van Garderen gained ground on Leopold König (NetApp-Endura), and gained breathing space between him and seventh overall, a position now occupied by Bauke Mollema.
Van Garderen took time to speak to the press after a short warm down on the roller, saying, "Yesterday was a pity and it was an off day but you can't change that and you can only look ahead,"
The American cracked on the Tuesday's climb of the Port de Balès and looked like he would be riding defensively as the raced travelled deeper in the Pyrenees. However he rallied and despite Nibali and Peraud distancing the main group of contenders and Mollema making the most of a head start on the final climb via his place in the early break, stage 17 represented somewhat of a mini-success for van Garderen.
"Bardet made a move on the descent and Pinot had to react. It's crazy that Nibali keeps on attacking. He's got such a big lead I'd think he would be content to follow and let the others play it out but he just wants to dominate the race any way he can."
"I tried doing a little attack today on the French guys but they're looking really strong. Obviously if one of them has a bad day then I need to take advantage of it."
With one more brutal day in the mountains remaining and a the long time trial between Bergerac and Périgueux to come, van Garderen was asked if the podium was still within reach. Anything can of course happen and this Tour de France has thrown up surprise after surprise but even van Garderen hinted that it was a long shot.
"Anything is possible. If you'd asked me a couple of days ago I would have said it was definitely possible. Yes it's possible but it will be hard."
Amaël Moinard was in the main break of the day and helped his team leader once he was caught on the final climb. Van Garderen had needed consolation from the Frenchman twenty-four hours ago, but atop the Pla d'Adet, Moinard was in better spirits.
"Yesterday on the bus he was really disappointed but I just said that it was a bad day but he was still in a chance of a top five," Moinard said.
"I told him to have his shower, find his focus and then get ready to start fighting for tomorrow. Don't forget there's still the last big time trial and at the beginning of this race the big goal was for a top five so we're still in content for that. He can still make it, for sure."
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