Part of a breakaway of five on a short but hilly 130-kilometre trek through South Poland from Olimp Nagawczyna to Rzeszow, van Garderen accelerated away alone as the move disintegrated on the final narrow, steep climb of the second category Lany.
Van Garderen was in the lead over the top of the climb, 11 kilometres from the finish, and then rode steadily on the rain-soaked downhill into Rzeszow. However, Team Sky and UAE were chasing hard behind and despite such a tenacious effort, the American was finally caught three kilometres from the line.
After catching his breath at the finish, van Garderen said he had not been overly optimistic about his chances at the top of the climb, but he decided to battle on regardless.
"I don't know, when we started the last climb with only 45 seconds I knew it'd be tough," he told Cyclingnews. "But I figured I might as well give it a shot."
Van Garderen said that the four other riders in the move – Maxime Monfort (Lotto-Soudal), Antwan Tolhoek (LottoNL-Jumbo), Maximilian Schachmann (Quick Step Floors), who was unlucky enough to crash and then abandon, and former Tour de Pologne winner Moreno Moser (Astana Pro Team) – had all collaborated well together. Their lead hovered between 90 seconds and three minutes for much of the day, and withstood several climbs, a dogged pursuit from the peloton and some intense heat in the first part of the stage, never dropping conclusively until the final 30 kilometres.
"Everyone was turning, nobody was skipping pulls, we had good cohesion, but I think the peloton just didn't want to give us much room," van Garderen said.
He was determined to continue despite the roads being quite skid-prone on the final descent, where there was a big crash in the peloton. "It was wet and the roads were pretty slick," he acknowledged.
And even if he could not cross the line ahead of the field, van Garderen was upbeat about his ride. Given that the BMC Racing Team are battling for the GC with Dylan Teuns, his move helped keep the pressure off the team and heightened it on Bora-Hansgrohe.
"It served a few purposes for the team to have me out there, aside for just going for the stage win, but it was definitely a good effort."