Tejay takes over
Van Garderen captures Stage 2 of USA Pro Challenge
MOUNT CRESTED BUTTE — Tejay Van Garderen hoped his time would come.
For the first time in his young professional cycling career, after the second stage of the USA Pro Challenge on Tuesday, Van Garderen could raise his hands in victory.
It was Van Garderen’s second stage victory, but first in a road race. His first stage victory was in a time trial in the Tour of Utah last year.
“I couldn’t raise my arms there,” Van Garderen said with a smile. “I’ve had eight second-place finishes and a lot of third and fourths.”
He had to push it to the end Tuesday to beat Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda rider Christian Vande Velde in a sprint to the end of the 99-mile race. Levi Leipheimer, who won the stage into Mount Crested Butte last year, finished fourth.
“I wasn’t overconfident I would win, but I knew I was going to give it a try,” Van Garderen said. “I knew Christian would have trouble with this elevation.”
Vande Velde, second overall in the Challenge last year, also had a runner-up stage finish in the Tour de France.
“I am really happy with my ride today,” said Vande Velde, who has finished as high as fourth overall in the Tour de France. “As an American team based in Boulder, I am very proud of how the team is riding in Colorado.”
Van Garderen, who lives in Boulder, took the overall lead and will wear the yellow jersey for today’s Stage 3 race, the Queen Stage over Cottonwood Pass and Independence Pass.
He is less than one second ahead of Vande Velde in the overall race for the yellow jersey. Leipheimer, last year’s overall winner, is eight seconds behind in fourth place. Ivan Rovney of Russia is six seconds behind in third.
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) of Wenatchee, Wash., who held the race lead after his Stage 1 sprint win, placed 57th in Stage 2 and is 72nd in the field of 116, trailing by 4:39.
Last year, Van Garderen placed second in the Queen Stage race and overtook Leipheimer for the yellow jersey.
“It’s certainly not over,” Van Garderen said. “Christian is riding strong. He was good in (the Tour of) Utah and is better now. I’m definitely a big fan of Christian.”
Van Garderen expects the pace to remain fast despite today’s two climbs over 11,000 feet.
“With the layout of the course, it will not calm down,” Van Garderen said. “(Today) is a hard stage. There could be big drama. There won’t be any weak breakaways. Every day will be a battle.”