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MARBELLA, Spain (VN) — Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) returned to racing with a team time trial win in the first stage of the Vuelta a España late Saturday evening on the country’s southern coast.
Van Garderen and his BMC teammates nabbed the victory over Tinkoff-Saxo by one second. Peter Velits finished first and took the red leader’s jersey.
After abandoning the Tour de France in the third and final week, opening the Vuelta one month later with that sort of start was ideal.
“That’s certainly morale boosting,” van Garderen told VeloNews.
“It brings me back to my first Vuelta in my neo-pro year , we had a TTT under similar sketchy circumstances because it was at night, and we won it with HTC. It’s bringing back memories of my neo pro year, so it’s pretty cool.”
Van Garderen abandoned the Tour on July 22 with a respiratory infection midway through the Pra Loup stage, which he began third overall in the overall standings.
The team also has all-round talent Samuel Sánchez in the Vuelta, but the idea is that van Garderen can take care of unfinished Tour business in Spain.
“Yeah, we’ll see,” he said. “I’ll go for GC, but what that means … I don’t want to put a number on it. I have good legs, the morale’s good, I’ll see what I can do.”
Van Garderen faces a list of rivals that looks pretty similar to the one he faced at the Tour, one that includes Chris Froome (Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
He did not gain GC time on them Saturday because the team time trial was neutralized from a general classification standpoint due to a course that was deemed unsafe. BMC Racing, reigning world champion in the time trial, went out guns blazing anyway and took the stage win that was still up for grabs.
“There was a bit of sand, a bit of rubber, a bit on the pier … It was definitely a crazy course, not one I would have wanted to ride, but when we are world champions, we have to do the stripes proud. We felt obligated to give it ago,” he said.
“There were certainly some corners where we were on the limit. We all felt safe and we were all confident on the bike.”
BMC began with three pulling “full gas” and turned it over to a remaining five cyclists to navigate the narrow paths along the popular seaside resort town.
“We thought in the tricky sections it would be safer to roll with five guys anyway,” he explained.
“With that tactic, it was perfect. It kept us safer and it was the quickest way to get around the course.”
With the individual classification still a dead heat, van Garderen’s race for the overall starts Sunday on the stage to Caminito del Rey — but with a confidence boost.
“It’s a 3km, eight-percent summit finish,” he said. “It’s a GC day for sure. The Vuelta starts.”