Tejay van Garderen maintained his grip on second place overall at the Tour de France Thursday by keeping pace with race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) during a third straight challenging day in the Pyrenees mountains.
Van Garderen placed 13th and in a group of nine riders that arrived at the summit finish 6:47 after Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha Team) won his second stage of the race. Rodriguez soloed out of what began as a 22-man breakaway early in the 195-kilometer race that included four major climbs.
"I knew Sky had a really strong team and they were going to try to neutralize any of the attacks of all the dangerous guys," van Garderen said. "So when they were jumping, I just sat behind Sky to make sure they pulled them back. Hopefully, those guys will keep doing that so they waste a few of their bullets. Then, in the third week they might pay the price."
On a day when rain pelted the peloton for the second half of the stage, van Garderen had teammate Samuel Sánchez at his side until the group of favorites dwindled to a dozen. Not long after Sánchez lost contract with six kilometers to go, the attacks began. First, from Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), followed by Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Pro Team), then Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) and finally from his teammate, Nairo Quintana. But each time, the aggressor was brought back.
In the overall standings, van Garderen is 2:52 behind Froome. Quintana (Movistar Team) and Valverde are third and fourth overall, 3:09 and 3:58 back, respectively. Only two other riders - Froome's teammate, Geraint Thomas and Tinkoff-Saxo's Contador - are within five minutes of the lead.
"There were two guys who I needed to mark, guys who I was close to on time," van Garderen said. "I feel like I did a good job of staying close to them and staying within my limits. It is all going according to plan."
BMC Racing Team Sport Director Yvon Ledanois said he was pleased to see van Garderen stay even with time on Froome after conceding two-and-a-half minutes to the 2013 Tour de France winner the first day in the Pyrenees but no more time on Wednesday or Thursday.
"We are happy with the results after the Pyrenees," Ledanois said. "We have kept the second place on the general classification. For the moment, that is most important. I think Tejay was a little bit better the second day and better today. He is motivated and he has the legs."
Ledanois said the BMC Racing Team decided before the race not to be a part of the day's breakaway.
"Most important was to stay with Tejay, all together," Ledanois said. "Before the last climb, he still had five guys with him. So all the guys did a very good job for Tejay today."