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TOOELE, Utah (VN) — Happy Birthday, Tejay Van Garderen. You are finally a professional bike race winner.
Lighting the 9.7-mile course at the Miller Motorsports Park on fire on a sizzling hot day in Utah’s west desert, Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) picked up the first victory of his professional career with a time of 17:33 — squeaking past RadioShack’s Levi Leipheimer and fellow HTC-Highroad rider Patrick Gretsch to win stage 3 of the 2011 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
“I’ve been waiting for a win for the last two years,” Van Garderen, who turned 23 Friday, said seconds after he watched Leipheimer’s clock tick past the magic number needed to give him the stage win. “It’s my birthday and it’s one of my last races with my team … So this is really a gift to them because they have been there and supported me so much all this time.”
While Van Garderen (who is joining BMC next year) had multiple causes to celebrate, it was Leipheimer — as expected coming into the stage — who stepped onto the overall leader’s spot on the podium as his second-place ride of 17:39 was more than enough to strip the jersey off the back of Gobernacion de Antioquia’s Sergio Henao.
The Colombian climbing specialist suffered around the course with a time of 18:48 – 1:15 off the pace set by Van Garderen and 1:09 slower than Leipheimer.
With two stages to go, the bullseye is more squarely on Leipheimer’s back as he now has a 27-second advantage over teammate Janez Brajkovic while Oscar Sevilla (Gobernacion) now sits in third position just 29 seconds off the pace. Henao slipped from first overall to fourth — 56 seconds back and will likely now work to protect Sevilla heading into Sunday’s final stage.
Before that, however, the Tour of Utah hits the streets of downtown Salt Lake City for a torturous circuit race up and down steep hills around the state capitol and University of Utah.
Leipheimer said he knows the race is anything but over. His effort, and the resulting time gaps, Friday night were valuable.
“Those two (Sevilla and Henao) and their team will be very aggressive and I’ll need every second I can get.”
So, while Leipheimer celebrated his yellow jersey, Van Garderen accepted the congratulatory kisses of his fiancé, Jessica Phillips, on the sidelines after he knew his victory was assured.
After making an attack in the final few kilometers that didn’t quite work on Thursday, Van Garderen was determined to salvage something special from the race.
Already wearing the Best Young Rider jersey, he decided a stage victory would be icing on the proverbial birthday cake.
“All I wanted to do was ride as hard as I could,” he said. “I didn’t care what names were still out there or about anything else. I came here thinking about going for the GC, but after that wasn’t going to happen, I just wanted to win a stage.”
He did it in dramatic fashion and with six seconds to spare.
Gretsch, who set the early time to beat and sat in the hot seat for nearly an hour, was awarded the Most Aggressive Rider jersey. BMC’s Jeff Louder, who posted a 18:38 time, retained his Best Utah Rider jersey extending his lead to 42 seconds over Bissell’s Chase Pinkham.
The King of the Mountain and Points jersey chases remained unchanged with Rubens Bertogliati (Team Type 1) and Roman Van Uden (PureBlack) not at risk during the time trial.
- 1. Tejay Van Garderen, (USA) HTC-Highroad, in 17:34
- 2. Levi Leipheimer, (USA) Team RadioShack, at :06
- 3. Patrick Gretsch, (GER) HTC-Highroad, at :10
- 4. Alexander Wetterhall, (SWE) Endura Racing, at :18
- 5. Christian Vandevelde, (USA) Garmin-Cervelo, at :19
- 1. Levi Leipheimer, (USA) Team RadioShack, in 8:35:03
- 2. Janez Brajkovic, (SLO) Team RadioShack, at :27
- 3. Oscar Sevilla Ribera, (ESP) Gobernacion De Antioquia-Indeportes Antiquia, at :29
- 4. Sergio Luis Henao Montoya, (COL) Gobernacion De Antioquia-Indeportes Antiquia, at :56
- 5. Jesse Anthony, (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies-Optumhealth, at 1:24