BMC Racing left little doubt about who is the team to beat at this year's Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah with a sweep of the prologue podium, placing Tejay van Garderen ahead of teammates Joey Rosskopf and Tom Bohli.
Starting just 15th on the day, Bohli set the early mark and sat in the hot seat for nearly an hour and 45 minutes before Rosskopf finally crossed the line two seconds better. The two-time US champion's spell in the hot seat was quite a bit shorter than Bohli's as van Garderen, who started last, came in another four seconds faster.
It was an impressive start for the US team that landed a title sponsor for next year just last month.
"We were hoping we could get the stage with Bohli, and Joey was just – he's not a prologue specialist but he's obviously good at the TT," BMC director Jackson Stewart told Cyclingnews. "Tejay was kind of up in the air. He was motivated and feeling good, but it's hard to know how you're going to respond in a week after the Tour. So he is just full of surprises."
Van Garderen said he felt good and knew early on that he was on a good ride.
"I did a couple days that were three hours after the Tour," he said. "The rest were just one-hour days easy, just pure recovery. So I really had no idea how I was going to respond, especially coming into this heat at altitude and such violent, short effort.
"I was kind of stepping into the unknown, but I was motivated and I went through my normal routine as if I was starting any other time trial," he said. "The legs responded well. As soon as I started pushing on the climb, I knew by gauging my sensations I was like, ‘OK, this could be a good one.'"
It was indeed a good one, and the team is now positioned well with van Garderen and Rosskopf, who earned the mountains jersey here in 2014, ready to defend yellow for the rest of the week, although van Garderen was clear that the current gaps are small and there's a lot of racing still to come.
"I haven't looked at the full list of results where the other contenders are, but I think in a 5k effort I can't imagine that it's more than a handful of seconds, and on the climb to Snowbird, that's a hard climb.," he said. "It's hot. It just bakes in the sun. It's steep. If you have a bad day on that day, whatever advantage you gained in a 5k prologue is going to be wiped away."
Choosing Utah over hill repeats
Van Garderen's participation in Utah is surprising, given he finished the Tour de France one week ago and he plans to start the Vuelta a Espana later this month. It's a busy schedule with back-to-back Grand Tours and little rest in between.
"I have the Vuelta coming up, I have the Tour in my legs and I was kind of thinking after a week of recovery I can start training again, start hitting 'set' on the power meter and cranking out efforts up a climb, or I can hop into the Tour of Utah," van Garderen said.
"I love Utah. I have a long history here. My first professional victory was in 2011 here in the TT, and even back before that the junior national championships were in Park City in like '05 or '06, and I have good memories there."
Van Garderen also had another, less cycling-related reason for his fondness for the Beehive State.
"I'm a big Donovan Mitchell fan," he said about the sensational rookie that plays for the NBA's Utah Jazz. "I think he was my rookie of the year. He was robbed by Ben Simmons, but the dude is special.
"I just came here to have some fun and keep the body rolling," he said. "I told myself if there was a chance for a result I'd take it, and today was a great opportunity for that."
BMC Racing has had a tumultuous year, with the title sponsor not renewing for next year and the team's future in doubt. But manager Jim Ochowicz found a title sponsor at the last minute, announcing during the Tour that Polish shoe manufacturer CCC had signed on to sponsor the team.
All three riders on Monday's podium are in contract years, and so were asked in the post-stage press conference about their futures.
"I'm set for next year. The announcement should come soon," van Garderen said.
His teammates were a bit more opaque.
"I think we better let the teams speak for that unless Tom has an announcement," Rosskopf said.
"I do not have an announcement, no. Not yet," was the 24-year-old Swiss rider's response.
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