Although Tejay van Garderen's general classification aspirations at the Giro d'Italia have gone by the wayside, he and his BMC Racing squad have not thrown in the towel on trying to make the most of their campaign in Italy.
Silvan Dillier earned the team a stage victory in the first week on stage 6, and BMC is looking for more in the final week of the race, particularly with would-be GC hopeful van Garderen now free to hunt stage success. On Wednesday's 17th stage, van Garderen worked his way into a massive breakaway along with teammates Manuel Senni and Fran Ventoso. The American said afterwards that it wasn't a meticulously planned strategy – BMC is just taking every possible opportunity the team is given at this point in the race.
"I wouldn't say I necessarily had it in my mind. Any day is an opportunity so you've just got to try," said van Garderen. After a trio of early attackers formed the beginnings of the day's main break, van Garderen was among the main drivers of a swelling chase group that eventually contested the stage.
"For a second it looked like they were happy to just let the first attack roll off. I think it was Bahrain that started pulled it back and that just sort of opened up the race. I just started following moves whenever I could. The move that ended up getting established was a big one."
Once the peloton allowed the elastic to snap, the breakers had their chance to contest the stage victory. Cannondale-Drapac's Pierre Rolland took the spoils in Canazei. BMC's bid didn't work out, with van Garderen finishing as their best-placed rider in 13th.
"I was feeling good, I was following moves," he said. "It was a bit confusing, Max [Sciandri, sport director] on the radio said try to have it be a sprint for Fran and that I should follow moves. So I was trying to follow but obviously you can't follow everything. Then I hear Fran was dropped and then Pierre attacked and I was a little tried from trying to mark a bunch of moves. And in the end we came up a little short. But it was good to be up there."
Despite the quiet finish, BMC took encouragement from van Garderen's performance on a day that saw him spend plenty of time at the front of the race.
"Tejay did good. I think he showed the condition was there, it was a good day out for him," Sciandri said.
BMC is likely continue to fight for stage success over the last few days of the Giro, especially considering what the riders in red and black can expect to hear over the radio if they miss the early break.
"We tried this morning to get motivated. Guys were prepared at the start on the rollers, got the brief, I tried to put out the best motivation. Then the three guys went and they got three minutes and we weren't in it and I was trying to be as pissed off as I could but in a diplomatic way, screaming in the microphone in the car," Sciandri said.
"But then the race opened up and we started getting in the move. Tejay was one of the first guys trying on Aprica went it opened up, and then we went through Aprica, came down and that's when the big group of 39 guys formed and we had Senni, Ventoso and Tejay, that was good."
With three lumpy road stages on tap before the final time trial in Milan, breakaways should continue to feature prominently in the battle for stage victories at the Giro, though Sciandri notes that it's hard to predict how Thursday's short but brutal stage to Ortisei will play out.
"Stages like Bergamo or like today, they have to be breakaways. The GC guys need to let teams like Cannondale that haven't won a stage go. The GC guys need to look at their own contest, look after each other or at each other. But tomorrow is a special day," he said. "I don't know. A short 135k, it's going to be full gas."
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