For the second consecutive year, Tejay van Garderen (BMC) found himself as the runner up on the Green Mountain stage of the Tour of Oman. The American looked despondent as he crossed the line just moments behind Rafael Valls (Lampre-Merida) after the Spaniard attacked him inside the final kilometre to take the win and the race lead.
After ridding himself of the race favourites, van Garderen thought that he was home and dry and admits that he didn’t consider Valls as a real challenger. “I was hoping for the victory. I was feeling good all day and my team was superb on the last climb,” he said at the top of Green Mountain.
“When I attacked, I dropped Valverde and Majka off my wheel. So I was thinking, smooth sailing as those were the two guys that I was worried about. Valls, I definitely underestimated him and he got the better of me in the final.”
BMC caught the two-man breakaway group at the foot of the final climb pushing the pace until under three kilometres to go and reeling in two speculative attacks from Vincenzo Nibali. Van Garderen carried on their work with several of his own moves and while he was able to shake the big favourites he didn’t have the legs to finish it off.
“I was doing all the attacks to get rid of all the big names and him being a dark horse he was able to catch a free ride and sit on my wheel,” he said.
“He attacked and I countered and then he countered and he just had that last little bit in the end.”
Van Garderen finished second to Chris Froome on the same climb at last year’s edition of the race. There was only one sprint stage remaining and he went on to finish second overall behind Froome. With the lumpy stage to the Ministry of Housing moved to the penultimate day it provides him with an opportunity to grab the red jersey for himself.
“Anything is possible, it’s a hard stage tomorrow and who knows if he’s going to have the team to be able to control. We’ll be motivated to attack him,” he said.
There are bonus seconds available in the intermediate sprint but van Garderen believes his efforts are best spent elsewhere. “To do that you’re going to have to control the breakaway and do a lead-out and that would take up so much energy that I think would be better spent attacking in the mountains.”
The Tour of Oman is the first race of the season for van Garderen and he has shown signs of his form coming together on this stage and two days previously with the finish at Al Bustan. “It shows that I’ve put in the work over the winter. It’s frustrating to be second on this stage for the second year running, it would have been nice to take the victory,” said van Garderen. “It’s a good gage but it’s a long season and it’s February.”