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Perhaps Alberto Contador’s bold attack late in stage 6 wouldn’t stick, but Tejay van Garderen was right where he needed to be. BMC’s American followed wheels and found himself in a dangerous move with Trek-Segafredo’s Spaniard as well as Vuelta a España leader Chris Froome (Sky).
Then, disaster struck — van Garderen appeared to slip off his handlebars and crashed on the descent off the stage’s final categorized climb.
“It was bad luck for us today because Tejay followed the first group with Contador, and we talked with him at this moment, saying ‘easy, easy,’” BMC director Yvon Ledanois said.
“I was on the limit, but when I looked back and saw the selection being made, that I was a part of it, I thought that was a good way to cement my spot on the GC,” van Garderen said.
Going into the stage, van Garderen was second overall. His BMC Racing squad won the opening-stage team time trial. Then, the 29-year-old finished with the GC group on stage 3 when Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).
In stage 6, van Garderen lost 20 seconds to most of the top overall favorites.
“It was a bumpy road and I must have just hit something in my hand slipped off the bars,” he said. “It all happened kind of fast. I have to watch the video to really see how it happened, but I don’t want to watch the video! It will kind of be a mystery for me.”
He is now back 30 seconds in fourth-place overall. “He had very good legs, but he crashed with [Carlos] Betancur. He changed bike, and we finished close to Froome,” Ledanois added.
“After two crashes, because he crashed also with 3km to go, he is not lucky today, but I hope it is OK for the next few days.”
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Van Garderen will have one long transition stage to regroup Friday. Then, the Vuelta returns to the climbs. Saturday’s stage 8 features a Cat. 1 climb of Alto de Xorret de Cati in the finale. Stage 9 Sunday also has a summit finish on Alto de Puig Llorenca.
“The Vuelta is not finished,” said Ledanois. “I think there will be a lot of surprises every day from now. Hard stages, 35 degrees [Celsius], a lot of riders tired.”
Van Garderen remained circumspect about the crash, thankful it didn’t dent his GC hopes too badly.
“When you think about it over three weeks nothing goes perfectly, and it’s more about how you deal with the not perfect days and take advantage of the good days,” he said. “I think I showed that I am good form and injury is minor. The legs are good, and my morale’s good.”
Andrew Hood and Gregor Brown contributed to this report from Sagunt, Spain.