ST. GEORGE — As the last rider to leave the start ramp during the prologue of the 2018 Tour of Utah, BMC rider Tejay Van Garderen knew exactly what he was up against. A 3.3-mile individual time trial greeted tour riders Monday and Van Garderen launched into his race with the knowledge that teammates Joey Rosskopf and Tom Bohli already had the two fastest times.
With temperatures approaching 100 degrees, Van Garderen was 4 seconds faster than Rosskopf, vaulting into the yellow jersey and stamping himself as one of the favorites in this year’s Tour.
“Pacing was important today as the gradient was deceiving and higher than what it looked like,” Van Garderen said. “You overpace on the way out and then come screaming in at 75K per hour all the way to the finish line.”
As the only rider in the 2018 Tour of Utah to compete in this year's just-completed Tour de France, no one knew exactly what to expect from Van Garderen. Race commentator Brad Sohner suggested the BMC pro would either have dead legs or be in fine form.
Van Garderen finished in 6 minutes, 27 seconds, and was 18 seconds faster than the 2017 Tour of Utah champion, Rally Cycling’s Rob Britton.
“I really had no idea how I was going to respond coming to this heat and this altitude,” Van Garderen said. “I was kind of stepping into the unknown but went through my normal routine and once I started pushing on the climb, I knew, gauging my sensations, that this could be a good day.”
It was a banner day for BMC racing as Van Garderen, Rosskopf and Bohli swept the top three podium spots.
“You never come into a race expecting to go one-two-three, but the performance today gives our team a lot of confidence heading into Stage 1 in Cedar City,” Rosskopf said.
While it was a brilliant start from BMC, the overall top 10 is separated by just 12 seconds.
Team Lotto NL-Jumbo had a strong day with Neilson Powless and Pascal Eenkhoorn finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.
Powless, age 21, won best young rider in the 2017 Tour of Utah and wears that jersey heading to Cedar City.
“It was pretty hot out there but it was a gorgeous venue here in St. George,” Powless said. “There were a lot of riders stopping this morning and taking pictures with the red rocks.”
It is rare for a cycling race to start with a prologue, and even more rare to find that course only 3.3 miles long. Rosskopf loved the event and feels like it loosens everyone up before Tuesday’s mass start.
“I think it is a nice way to get the nerves out,” Rosskopf said. “When we start tomorrow we already have a ranking and that gives a little more structure to how the first stage plays out.”
Race-leader Van Garderen is a big fan of Utah and had his first victory as a professional in Utah in 2011. He also rode at the Junior National Championships in Park City in 2006.
Van Garderen lightened the mood at Monday’s press conference when he announced he is a big fan of Utah Jazz player Donovan Mitchell. “He was my rookie of the year and that dude is just special,” Van Garderen said. “I just came here to have some fun and keep the body rolling. If there is a chance for a result, I’ll take it.”
Tour of Utah overall standings
- Tejay Van Garderen, BMC Racing, 6:27
- Joey Rosskopf, BMC Racing, 6:31
- Tom Bohli, BMC Racing, 6:33
- Neilson Powless, Team Lotto NL-Jumbo, 6:34
- Pascal Eenkhoorn, Team Lotto NL-Jumbo, 6:38
- Serghei Tvetcov, (UHC), 6:38
- Nathan Brown, EF-Drapac, 6:38
- Travis McCabe, (UHC), 6:39
- Evan Huffman, Rally Cycling, 6:39
- William Clarke, EF-Drapac, 6:39