Van Garderen concedes that Bernal is the better rider in California

Tejay van Garderen (BMC) lost his overall lead on stage 6 of the Tour of California on Friday after Team Sky's Egan Bernal put the hammer down on the penultimate climb and rode away from the 29-year-old American.

Quite understandably loathe to talk to reporters at the finish line in South Lake Tahoe, van Garderen later said on BMC Racing's website that he was happy that his team had done everything to keep him in a race-winning position.

"It was a hard day, and BMC rode brilliantly," van Garderen said. "I was isolated on the final climb where Bernal made his move, and I fought as hard as I could. On days like this, the only thing you can do is tip your hat to your competitor. He is a young talent with a bright future, and I was simply overmatched.

"I'm happy with my form," he continued, "and I hope to continue this trajectory into my next events."

While van Garderen may not have been keen to elaborate further on not having been able to follow Bernal, team directeur sportif Jackson Stewart tried to put a more positive spin on how the race had gone as a whole.

"We started the stage well," said Stewart. "We controlled the race early on with Nathan Van Hooydonck and Danilo Wyss, and there was a pretty good mix in the nine-rider breakaway so we were happy to let that go.

"We controlled the gap and our guys worked hard. Towards the end, Team Sky came up to the front and it was clear that they wanted to bring it back. On that penultimate climb, there were really two levels. There was Tejay's level, and then there was Bernal's level. We started to lose time, and the race slipped away from us. There's not much you can do when a rider is just that much better on the climb.

"I don't want to be too down about today, though," Stewart said. "We gave our best out there. Not just Tejay; the whole team did their best. I think that at this race we showed that we're on a whole other level when it comes to time trials, and Bernal, and Team Sky, showed the same, only in the mountains. And the race had more mountains than time trials. Of course, we're a little down about it, but we needn't be. We need to be happy that we won a stage and that we're on the podium at the biggest race in America. It's not ideal, but once you stop to think about it, I think we can be pleased."

The Tour of California culminates with a flat stage for the sprinters in Sacramento on Saturday, where van Garderen is set to finish second overall to Bernal, with EF-Drapac's Dani Martinez third.

Van Garderen will return to Europe to race at the Tour de Suisse in early June before riding in support of Richie Porte at the Tour de France, which starts on July 7.

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