Tejay van Garderen came into the Tour de Suisse as one of the top favourites and with the pressure to establish himself in the BMC Racing Team's pecking order for the Tour de France general classification, but a bad day on Thursday scuttled his overall chances. The American made up for his losses with a solo stage win on the queen stage to Sölden on Friday.
Van Garderen erased the 1:51 he lost to race leader Wilco Kelderman (LottoNl-Jumbo) yesterday, but was unable to gain enough time to challenge for the overall as Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) finished the stage just 16 seconds behind to take the yellow jersey. Van Garderen is still 1:31 down with tomorrow's 16.8km time trial and one road stage remaining.
Speaking of his stage win, the American said he had mixed emotions. "I knew I had the form to win the overall, I just made a bit of an error yesterday. At least we're coming away from this race with something. I'm happy to at least bounce back today and show some good form coming into July."
It was an audacious move by van Garderen that netted the win - he attacked almost 5km from the summit of the hors categorie climb, jumping around Team Sky's Vasil Kiryienka, who had pulled for much of the climb in service of teammate Geraint Thomas.
"It was a hard moment and I saw that some of the other riders didn't look so strong and I was feeling good so I thought it was a good opportunity to attack and go for the stage victory. And that's how it happened. They gave me a little bit of freedom because I lost a bit of time yesterday so I was able to get a gap and hold on to it," van Garderen said.
The gap was tenuous at first, but then began to grow steadily as behind, Kelderman lost contact and van Garderen's fellow American Andrew Talansky (Cannondale) also began to struggle. Barguil finally jumped away from the ragtag chasing group, pulling Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) along, but they couldn't catch the flying BMC rider.
"You're never sure of a stage victory until you cross the line so I just put my head down and went as hard as I did. It's tempting to look back and I think I did look back a few times but I just tried to keep my head forward," van Garderen said.
Looking at the next two stages, the American thinks he can move up in the time trial and maybe on the short, furious final stage, which passes over two major mountains before descending to the finish in Davos.
"Looking at the GC as it stands after today I definitely think I can move up a couple of places and maybe get into the top five or the podium. If I have a really good day and some of my rivals suffer a bit then the podium could be possible. But it is still very regrettable having lost that time yesterday, because then I think I would be in with a good chance."