Tooele • Tejay Van Garderen is out of contention for the yellow jersey at the Tour of Utah. He's come to terms with that.
But as the 23-year-old HTC rider showed Friday evening, he's not going to stop riding as hard as he can.
"I was disappointed a few days ago when I fell out of that top group," Van Garderen said. "But I thought, 'Maybe I could get fifth place, or maybe win best young rider.' But that wasn't enough, and I figured I don't care anymore if I waste a little bit of energy trying to win a stage."
So, for his birthday, Van Garderen claimed the Stage 3 time trial at Miller Motorsports Park, beating out defending tour champion Levi Leipheimer by six seconds. Leipheimer was able to take the yellow jersey with his performance, but Van Garderen couldn't have been happier after winning a stage on his birthday.
"It's absolutely a big deal some of the best time trialists in the world are here," he said. "When Levi was coming in, I just looked at the clock, and when I saw it hit 17:34, I knew I had won."
Leipheimer came up second in the stage for the second year in a row, but he claimed the evening's big prize by taking a 27-second lead over the field. Gobernacion de Antioquia racer Sergio Luis Henao Montoya was the overall leader entering the day but fell back to fourth with an 18:48.
Now Leipheimer finds himself in the familiar position of holding off his fellow competitors. But the tour has changed vastly since last year: Leipheimer is riding with team RadioShack after going solo in 2010, the field is more talented and Saturday will bring a whole new circuit stage in downtown Salt Lake City that could be problematic for the defending champ.
"Tomorrow will be very hard to control, and it's going to fall on the shoulders of my teammates," Leipheimer said. "I think [the Tour of Utah] is a more prestigious race now. Bigger teams, bigger names. It's kind of a platform for some of these young guys."
If Leiphiemer holds on to the lead, he'll have an edge in the final stage, in which he finished second last year and clinched his tour victory. The climactic climb to Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort is a stage of attrition, Leipheimer said, and having ridden it last year is a distinct advantage.
Rounding out the top three was Patrick Gretsch, a teammate of Van Garderen. He took the lead early with a 17:43 but was forced to sit tight and wait for the overall leaders to ride. When he watched Van Garderen beat his time by a full 10 seconds, the German couldn't help but feel a little crestfallen. But he was also excited for HTC-Highroad, which will dissolve by the end of the year.
"Sure, I was disappointed, but as long as it stays on the team, I'm happy," Gretsch said. "We want to enjoy the last few months because there's special emotions. We are all like friends."
Stage 3 results
1 • Tejay Van Garderen, HTC-Highroad: 17:33.64
2 • Levi Leipheimer, Team RadioShack: 17:39.58
3 • Patrick Gretsch, HTC-Highroad: 17:43.75
Yellow jersey • Levi Leipheimer, Team RadioShack
2 • Janez Brajkovic, Team RadioShack
3 • Oscar Sevilla Ribera, Gobernacion de Antioquia
P Saturday, 1 p.m.
82 miles, 11 laps
O For photos of the Tour of Utah's Stage 3 on Friday, visit