BMC Racing team captain Tejay van Garderen has said that the team has a simple strategy for today’s decisive mountain stage: track the team which is expected to animate the race, and then see what can be done in light of that.
“I kind of expect Saxo to be aggressive, so I think our tactic is to play off them a bit,” he said at the stage ten start in Mulhouse.
“You just have to see how the race plays out. If there is an opportunity, for sure I will take it. But if you go in with a plan of ‘I am going to do this and this’ and some other team has a different plan and messes up your plan, that can complicate things.
“But I have got my eye on Saxo Bank and I want to try to see what they are doing.”
Fifth overall in the Tour two years ago, Van Garderen was named the sole leader of the BMC Racing Team for the event this time round. He had hoped to be in contention for the yellow jersey but has found himself on the back foot after some crashes in earlier stages.
He started Monday’s tenth stage 16th overall, 5 minutes and 8 seconds behind the new leader Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol). Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), the previous leader and best-placed of the overall contenders, is 3 minutes 34 seconds ahead of the American.
The gap is not insurmountable, but things have to start going to plan soon.
Team president Jim Ochowicz said the strategy is straightforward for the 25 year old.
“We are looking for him to stay with the leaders, whomever they might be today. The obviously people are Contador and Nibali,” he told CyclingTips. “He has to stay in that hunt. He can’t afford to lose any more time. Okay, he could lose ten, fifteen seconds on the finish line, that is not bad, but he can’t afford to lose any significant time to either them or anybody else.
“So his job is going to be survive and stay up and give it everything he has gone on that last climb to stay with the leaders.”
Ochowicz believes that van Garderen is fully over the crashes he had and there are no lingering effects. He notes that the race has reached a different point too, and that the racing should – in theory anyway – be safer and less nervous than before.
“It doesn’t mean you can’t crash today but it is less likely than racing in the heavy rains around Belgium and surviving through England and some of the tight roads we were on. He has come out of that relatively okay. He has lost his three minutes because of crashes, but the team was strong enough to keep him still in contention.
“They really brought him back. Without a team like ours he would have lost ten minutes. They kept him in the race during those incidents. Now he is here, he is healthy and ready to take the challenge.”
The race’s first rest day takes place on Tuesday and this will have an effect on the pattern of competition on stage ten. As van Garderen notes, riders will willingly go deeper as a result, knowing that they should have a chance to recover afterwards.
“Today is going to be a big day for the King of the Mountains, so I expect a lot of attacks in the beginning. The breakaway is probably not going to go until an hour and a half into the race, and by that time we are nearly there. So it is going to be a hard day and knowing that we have a day of recovery, people can go a little bit deeper.”
By the end of the stage, he should have a better idea of how he is fixed for the overall. If he concedes more time, it will make things difficult for him to aim for a high general classification. However if he remains with the top riders or, better still, manages to gain time on him, it will put a completely different slant on things.
For now, Ochowicz doesn’t want to make predictions. “We are not putting a number on anything,” he said. “It is too early to put a number on it. We just want to make sure we don’t lose any more time.”