Van Garderen gets defensive over Tour de Suisse offensive

Tejay van Garderen attacked during Wednesday's stage 5 in Switzerland and nearly caught his teammate and stage winner Darwin Atapuma.

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BMC Racing’s Tejay van Garderen took to Twitter to defend his tactics in Wednesday’s climbing stage at the Tour de Suisse.

With eventual stage winner and teammate Darwin Atapuma nursing a slender and rapidly decreasing lead, van Garderen attacked behind him with two intense surges that simultaneously put his GC rivals in the red and trimmed Atapuma’s margin.

In the end, BMC came up spades, with Atapuma hanging on to take an emotional victory following close calls at the Giro d’Italia and van Garderen solidifying his GC position.

A few commentators questioned why van Garderen was aggressive in the GC group when he had a teammate up the road racing for victory. Van Garderen countered on Twitter ahead of Thursday’s stage:

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Van Garderen rarely engages so directly on Twitter, but he clearly wanted to set the record straight. BMC sport director Fabio Baldato said having Atapuma up the road was part of the plan if a big group went away in the Swiss tour’s first major test in the mountains.

“If Tejay wanted to attack and was in the position to do so, then Darwin would be there,” Baldato said in a team release. “Team Sky set a tempo but there wasn’t a really strong chase, which worked well for Darwin. For Tejay, this was also a great result. He had good legs and gained a couple of seconds back on some of the GC guys, so he is well positioned going into the next mountain stages.”

The stage couldn’t have ended better for BMC, which has strong connections to Switzerland via team owner Andy Rihs. Atapuma’s stage win was the team’s first in the Swiss tour since 2010, and Van Garderen finished fourth on the stage at 9 seconds back, climbing from 18th to fifth, now 18 seconds behind overnight race leader Pierre Latour of Ag2r La Mondiale.

Van Garderen, racing at the Tour de Suisse with big ambitions, will have another chance to attack Thursday in the two-climb, summit finale to Amden. The final 10.6km climb will see movement among the GC favorites in the second of three consecutive mountaintop finales ahead of Saturday’s decisive time trial.

Atapuma, meanwhile, celebrated an emotional stage victory after chasing in vain a win during the Giro d’Italia last month. The victory was Atapuma’s third career win, and his first since 2013.

“The fact that I missed out on a stage win [at the Giro] gave me more motivation and kept me focused for this win,” Atapuma said. “I knew that there were two possible scenarios that were good for the team. If Tejay attacked from behind, then I would be there to help him. Or, in case I got close to the finish as we eventually did, I would attack for the win.”

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