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Van Garderen puts Tirreno rivals on notice

LIDO DI CAMAIORE, Italy (VN) — American Tejay van Garderen and his BMC team dealt an early blow to their race rivals Wednesday in the Tirreno-Adriatico. Van Garderen helped the world champion team win the time trial and took “a good chunk” of time doing so.

Van Garderen sprayed down his teammates, including Daniel Oss in the blue leader’s jersey, with Astoria Prosecco on the winner’s podium overlooking the Tuscan coast in Lido di Camaiore. Afterward, he had his first look at the time gaps. “It’s a victory, and a good chunk of time,” van Garderen said in a press huddle. “It’s good to start on the front rather than the back. You never want to give away time, you take everything you can.”

BMC Racing won the 22.7-kilometer team time trial in 23:55, averaging 56.947kph — a new race record for average speed in a stage. Rival teams fared worse on the out-and-back coastal course: Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) lost nine seconds, Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff) 11, two-time Tirreno winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 15, Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski and Wout Poels 21, Orica’s Adam Yates and Esteban Chaves 25, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 29, and Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) 59. Rigoberto Urán crashed with two other Cannondale teammates and lost two minutes, three seconds.

“A one-week race usually comes down to seconds,” van Garderen added. “That’s absolutely what we wanted.”

The race is only in its first day with small hilltop finishes and a big summit finish to Monte San Vicino to come. However, this is what van Garderen wants with the Tour de France on the horizon in July and with new teammate Richie Porte vying for leadership, as well. This week, Porte is leading BMC’s team in the Paris-Nice stage race.

“It’s the first I’m seeing of the time gaps, but that’s significant time. Once we get to the summit finish and some of the other days, and the last time trial, some of those deficits might [change],” van Garderen added.

“You don’t win a race with one weapon: You have to climb; you have to time trial; you have to be attentive in the tricky stages, and in the bunch sprints you can’t be behind gaps. This is one piece of the puzzle, but I’m still happy where we are at.

“I wouldn’t say we are safe with this, and it’s certainly not over, but it’s better to start on the front rather than the back.”

Van Garderen has been in this position before. In the 2015 Vuelta a España, BMC won the opening stage and set himself up for the overall classification. A crash and fractured shoulder, however, took him out in the second week. Today, he began in the same winning position.

BMC was well-equipped for Wednesday’s test, as its squad won the team time trial world championships twice so far, once in 2014 and last year in Richmond, Virginia. It created what Oss called a “positive energy” within the team camp over the last two days.

“It’s not really pressure, but more eagerness that we have. We get excited for these things,” van Garderen said. “We are performers, when we are on the stage, we want to perform. When we have a chance to do this, we are anxious to do so. We are more anxious to show ourselves rather than nervous.”