On his twenty-third birthday, Tejay van Garderen scorched the hot tarmac at the Miller Motorsports Park to win the time trial at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
“It feels incredible. This is the perfect day to do it on my birthday.” van Garderen said afterwards.
“Having it be my birthday gave me a little bit motivation, my fiancee was in the car, just everything. It’s been something I wanted for a long time. The team is dissolving at the end of the year and I think this team has been incredible for the past two years and I wanted to repay them with a victory.”
The 106th rider out of the gate, van Garderen clocked a blazing time of 17:33 on the 9.7-mile (15.6-km) course. He kept an average speed of 33.1 mph (53.3 kmh) as he leaned into the multiple turns on the racetrack.
“I rode the course twice before the start of the race so I kind of knew how to take the corners, I knew which way the wind was coming from and when there’s a little bit of an uphill, when you can recover a little bit. I had Allan Peiper on the radio giving me a little bit of advice, got a corner coming up and he told me before the start, ‘just start hard, find a pace that you think you can do for five minutes and do it for fifteen’, that was my tactic.” he said.
His DS Peiper was giving him time splits that showed he was faster than his teammate Patrick Gretsch who had been sitting in the hot seat for most of the race.
“Patrick Gretsch is a super-talented time trialer, he’s been junior world champion, he’s always in the top of every time trial he does. Getting split times that I was a little bit up on him, I knew I had a good chance of winning. He’s one of the best of the world.”
Van Garderen beat his teammate by ten seconds, but the victory wasn’t assured as he still had to wait for five more riders to finish, including defending champion Levi Leipheimer (Radioshack).
‘I was just hanging out at the finish area, I wasn’t watching the TV or anything, all I was watching was the clock. As soon as I saw 17:33 got passed, it was a big relief.” said van Garderen.
Leipheimer finished six seconds off van Garderen. Gretsch held on to third place and was also awarded the Most Aggressive jersey.
Amazingly enough, it was the first win for van Garderen since joining the HTC-Highroad team in 2010. The pressure to do well was self-inflicted.
“There was pressure from myself but there was no external pressure that comes from this team, they expect everyone to give one hundred percent. They’re also realistic and they don’t put excess pressure on me. This is something that I wanted, I’ve been hunting for victory these past two years, I’ve been second on seven separate occasions so it’s nice to be finally on top.”
And not just any win. “If you look at the teams that are and the caliber of the riders, there are five ProTour teams here.” van Garderen commented. “There are some of the best time trialer in the world here with Zabriskie, Leipheimer and Zirbel. It’s a 2.1 UCI stage race, it’s a big deal. It’s not a small race.”
After losing his chances at the overall win on stage 1, van Garderen did not give up.
“I was a little bit disappointed a couple of days ago when I wasn’t able to follow Levi so I lost my hopes of GC. So yesterday I was just thinking ‘well alright, I can either just sit and try to be happy with Best Young Rider and overall but that wasn’t enough.”
van Garderen still holds the Best Young Rider jersey and sits in sixth on general classification at 2:27 down from new overall leader Leipheimer.
With two stages to go, two very tough stages to go, there are still a lot of cards to play for van Garderen and his team.
“Hayden Roulston, he’s a strong guy on sort of punchy climbs like that, a good sprinter. Danny Pate is always jumping into breakaways. Maybe I cab keep the ball rolling and hunt for another stage myself.” he concluded with a smile.