Tour of Utah: Van Garderen passes first climbing test on stage 1

Tejay van Garderen and his BMC Racing team passed their first climbing test on Tuesday as they worked to defend the yellow jersey van Garderen took in the Tour of Utah's prologue time trial.

Stage 1 featured the 24km climb in Cedar Breaks that reached pitches of 13 per cent. The early breakaway broke apart up the climb, but it came back together on the next descent. BMC Racing let the gap go out to five minutes, but then slowly reeled the escapees back in before the sprinters' teams took over and UnitedHealthcare's Travis McCabe took the stage win in Cedar City.

"Our plan was to let a breakaway get up the road to stop the attacks," van Garderen said. "We found a breakaway that we were comfortable with, let them get a little time, and then established a chase. We were banking on a couple of the sprinters' teams coming in to help close the gap in the final so that we didn't have to do all the work today. We were able to keep things relatively under control for such a hard, hot day."

The plan worked out well, and van Garderen was happy with his team's effort and execution.

"Yeah, 100 per cent," he told Cyclingnews in the finishing straight. "The guys really stepped up. We had a couple of stagiaires with us today, and they really, really rode like pros today. We also have our steady guys like Brent Bookwalter, Joey Rosskopf and Killian Frankiny to do the work. I couldn't be happier."

Van Garderen was also happy with how his legs felt during the stage, and especially on the climb, although he suggested once again that he hasn't truly been tested on the climbs or at altitude at the race so far.

"It was hard," van Garderen said. "The tempo was hard. I felt comfortable on it, though. I don't think I'll really know until some of the other GC guys start making moves, and then I'll have to see how I can respond to that."

BMC's team in Utah features stagiaires Alex Evans and Freddy Ovett, both from Australia. Van Garderen praised their efforts on the day and said they were of big value to the team.

"I like having stagiaires," he said. "They're always really motivated. They're always eager and willing to do whatever the task is. It's a great opportunity for them, and it's a great opportunity for us to not only teach them but to get an extra helping hand in races like these."

Evans, 21, worked on the front over both climbs, fighting his way back after getting dropped over the top of the Cedar Breaks climb and helping out again over the second category 4 rise.

"It was pretty tough," Evans told Cyclingnews. "I was on the front up there on the first climb and then I sort of got distanced over the top. I got back, but then over the second climb I was feeling better and recovered, thankfully, and made it to the end.

"It's definitely good fun," Evans said of having the opportunity to defend the yellow jersey with BMC. "It puts a little bit of pressure on the team, but it's getting me ready for the future, hopefully – get a bit of a taste for it."

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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.