At the finish of stage 4 in Tavira, the BMC Racing all-rounder admitted that the overall win was now beyond him, with Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) leading the race by a comfortable buffer. However, Sunday's stage to the top of the Malhao - which will be climbed twice - offers a number of riders the opportunity to take a major result. For van Garderen and BMC, the goal is to win the stage.
"If I can move up on GC that's great, but we're going to basically get to the bottom of the climb and then go as hard as we can," van Garderen told Cyclingnews as he munched on a post-stage snack.
In terms of the overall, Thomas leads his teammate Michal Kwiatkowski by 19 seconds, with Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) third at 32 seconds. Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors), van Garderen, Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Jamie Roson (Movistar) then make up a collective that could determine the final spot on the podium.
"The difference between third and fifth in the Volta ao Algarve isn't that big a deal," van Garderen said. "If we can get the stage win out of tomorrow, that would be cooler."
The American came into the race as BMC's ticket for the overall classification. He lost a handful of seconds on the first summit finish on stage 2 but put in a respectable showing in Friday's individual time trial to solidify his GC chances. BMC teammate Richie Porte, who came into the race as a previous winner, has not been at his best this week and has stated that his top form is being saved for later in the year.
"We're both a little far down to think about winning the race, but we can still give it a try - try to move up, try to win the stage," van Garderen said.
"In terms of GC, it's only a three-kilometre climb, and you're not going to take almost a minute. That's impossible."