PUY SAINT PIERRE, France (VN) – As teams whose top-five GC hopes have faded often do, Garmin-Cervélo is chasing the teams classification at the Tour de France. But with four stage wins, a week in the maillot jaune and an American rookie fighting for the top-10, Garmin’s Tour has been their best ever and Tom Danielson leads the squad in a run at the final podium in the final three days of the race.
Ryder Hesjedal and Christian Vande Velde rode themselves into the ground Thursday on the Col du Galibier to protect the team’s place atop the leaderboard. Hesjedal collapsed to the road after crossing the finish line.
“Yeah, why not? We’re leading,” he told VeloNews after finishing tenth. “We always knew we started this race with three guys who could be there. Now we’re coming through this last week, it’s nice to stay on the podium. It’s all a process of trying to keep Tom in the top 10 and ride strong. It’s all just part of the equation.”
Team standings are decided daily by the total time of a squad’s first three riders to cross the finish line. The classification is that time, added up from every stage.
Team GC after stage 18
- 1. Team Garmin-Cervelo, in 238h 16′ 08″
- 2. Ag2r La Mondiale, at 10:30
- 3. Team Leopard-Trek, at 11:06
- 4. Katusha Team, at 28:42
- 5. Team Europcar, at 29:21
- 6. Sky Procycling, at 39:26
- 7. Euskaltel – Euskadi, at 42:26
- 8. Saxo Bank Sungard, at 1H06:27
- 9. Team Radioshack, at 1H18:37
- 10. Fdj, at 1H18:49
- 11. Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne, at 1H26:57
- 12. Quick Step Cycling Team, at 1H34:18
- 13. BMC Racing Team, at 1H44:07
- 14. Vacansoleil-Dcm, at 1H48:01
- 15. Pro Team Astana, at 1H50:43
- 16. Liquigas-Cannondale, at 2H00:03
- 17. Rabobank Cycling Team, at 2H00:30
- 18. Omega Pharma – Lotto, at 2H06:30
- 19. Saur-Sojasun, at 2H12:25
- 20. Lampre – Isd, at 2H26:35
- 21. HTC – Highroad, at 2H29:24
- 22. Movistar Team, at 3H00:03
Rarely does a team enter a race with team GC as a priority, but when the opportunity presents itself to take the yellow numbers the leading team wears everyday, squads often go after it. Two weeks into a Tour there is a big draw in the opportunity to stand on the podium as a team in Paris at race end.
Garmin entered stage 18 with a 5:27 lead over Leopard-Trek.
Danielson finished ninth, Ryder Hesjedal tenth and Vande Velde twelfth on the highest summit finish in the Tour’s history. With Leopard putting all its focus on Andy Schleck’s long-range attack on the Col d’Izoard, that team plummeted down the leaderboard and Ag2r La Mondiale moved into second in the classification.
Garmin pushed its lead out to more than 10 minutes.
“Top 10 is one thing, but team GC is a lot bigger,” said Vande Velde, fourth overall in 2008. “That’s why we keep on going or else I wouldn’t push like that for 25th.”
When Vande Velde and Hesjedal fell off the pace of the Cadel Evans-led chase group midway up the finish climb, they were forced into a familiar position: riding alone together on a remote climb. They tried to come back to Danielson, but could not. The team GC drove them on.
“I had a good time riding with Ryder,” said Vande Velde. “We teamed up together. It’s just kind of funny when you train that much together — Hawaii, Girona, here — and then you find yourselves alone together on the Galibier. It’s cool.”
“Yeah, they’re there and riding really strong and it’s good to see,” said Danielson, who at 33 years old is three days from finishing his first Tour. “I had a bad day yesterday and I felt good today. One more day in the mountains and then I get to do the time trial and I’m excited about that.”
Three categorized climbs, a hilly time trial and a sprint stage on the Champs Elysées lie between Garmin and the final podium. The team began the Tour with eyes toward a top-ten in the final overall standings and stage wins. With Danielson hanging in ninth and four very different victories since their stage 2 team time trial win, a trip to the stage beneath the Arc de Triomph on Sunday would cap off Garmin’s best-ever showing in July.