American BMC rider Tejay van Garderen strengthened his grip on the overall lead in the Tour of California on Friday with a victory in the individual time trial sixth stage. The 24-year-old was the only rider to break 49 minutes on the 31.6-kilometer (19.6-mile) course, winning in 48:52 to extend his lead in the overall standings over Australian Michael Rogers, winner of the 2010 edition, to 1:47.
Van Garderen’s time was 22 seconds faster than runner up Lieuwe Westra of the Netherlands. Australian Garmin rider Rohan Dennis was third, 27 seconds back. Rogers finished fourth to remain in second place overall, while fellow Aussie Cameron Meyer’s sixth-place finish saw him move up to third in the standings with two stages remaining. Van Garderen used his time trial bike throughout, opting against a change to a standard road bike for the final ascent to the finish.
“I’m really struggling for words right now,” said Van Garderen, buoyed by the arrival of his wife and infant daughter to the stage. “This feeling’s incredible. Now we just need to bring it home on Saturday.”
Saturday’s 147.1-kilometer stage seven will take the riders on a punishing route from Livermore to the summit of Mt. Diablo. Van Garderen, a rising star of US cycling, was fifth in the Tour de France last season at the age of 23 and a victory on Sunday would give him the first stage race title of his career.
He has already made a strong start to the season, with a fourth place finish in the Paris-Nice and a runner-up finish at the Tour de San Luis.