Tejay van Garderen came into the Tour de Suisse with high hopes of a top general classification result as he prepares for the Tour de France in July, but the American leader of BMC Racing lost more than six minutes in the cold and wet weather of stage 6 to Amden.
Van Garderen suffered up the final climb during the stage, won by Pieter Weening (Roompot - Oranje Peloton) with a bold solo move that saw him go clear of the top overall contenders by more than four minutes. LottoNL-Jumbo’s Wilco Kelderman finished 4:31 down on the winner but seized the overall lead, while van Garderen came in 6:22 down for 28th place on the stage, dropping to 13th overall, 2:09 behind Kelderman.
"Today's result is a bit disappointing," van Garderen said in a statement released on the team's website.
"I used to be a specialist in cold and miserable days, and now I seem to struggle more than others when it comes to the cold," he said. "To be honest, it's the only thing I can put my finger on. I was feeling good all race up until today, so I don't think it's so much a question of form. At the top of the first climb I froze up. I don't know if there is anything else I can attribute it to. It was generally a pretty bad day for a lot of guys and the fact that I wasn't the only GC guy dropped shows that I wasn't the only one suffering.
"The fitness is still good. It's better to have a bad day now than in the Tour de France," he said. "Of course it would be nice to have a good result here heading into the Tour de France too. But the race isn't over, there's still a lot of climbing and the time trial to come. When it comes to the Tour de France you can't have any weaknesses no matter what the weather is like. I'm going to speak to the medical team and see what I can do to better deal with the cold and days like today heading into the Tour de France."
Stage 6 hit full boil when Gorka Izzagirre (Movistar) attacked in the valley before the final climb, making his own bid for the yellow jersey. Weening attacked with 7.5km to go solo, while Izagirre's gap began to fall. Overnight leader Pierre Latour (AG2R) was dropped from the group of favourites but fought hard to stay in contact with a chasing group. Van Garderen was also dropped from the chase with 4km to go as defending champion Simon Spilak (Katusha) attacked out of that group.
"When Izagirre went we knew it was a dangerous move," said BMC director Fabio Baldato. "So we started pulling hard at the front of the bunch and were then joined by some of the other GC teams. At the bottom of the final climb we told Darwin [Atapuma] to go full gas and try and bring the gap down.
"Yesterday Tejay was feeling super strong so we really wanted to go hard today and see what could happen," Baldato said. "It was so cold and that definitely had an impact on his legs. It's clear when there are multiple GC contenders dropped that it's a tough day. The day before he was feeling super good so we wanted to go hard today. Tomorrow is such a hard day that anything could happen. It's not over yet."