Tour of California: Tejay van Garderen in control as Leopold Konig wins
Last Updated: 19/05/13 11:41am
Tejay van Garderen crosses the line just ahead of Michael Rogers
Tejay van Garderen safely came through the final big test of the Tour of California to close on victory in the week-long race.
The American finished third on the seventh stage at the top of Mount Diablo and added a few seconds to his advantage heading into Sunday's final leg, a flat stage that should only need him to stay upright.
His BMC Racing team controlled the race, never allowing a break that included Andy Schleck and stage one winner Lieuwe Westra get too far clear ahead of what was always going to be the all-important final climb.
Van Garderen had plenty of help from Mathias Frank, Amael Moinard and others on the lower slopes and they maintained a constant pace when responding to attacks from those with something to gain in the overall standings.
Eventually it was Leopold Konig and Janier Acevedo Calle who broke clear, and the former made his move inside the stamina-sapping final 500 metres to take his first stage victory of the season.
Acevedo Calle came home seven seconds later with van Garderen losing only 12 seconds in third, crossing the line inches ahead of Michael Rogers, who sits in second overall 1:47 off the pace.
His final day effort meant Acevedo Calle moved back into third ahead of Frank and Cameron Meyer, who dropped back on the final climb.
The race finishes with a 131km stage from San Francisco to Santa Rosa, but it boasts little in the way of climbing and should finish in a bunch sprint, with van Garderen expected to take the yellow jersey unless he meets with some kind of accident.
"I'm thrilled. It's still kind of soaking in," van Garderen said. "It was an unbelievable team effort. I knew they were strong, I knew they would be motivated, but they went above and beyond expectations today.
"They made my life somewhat easy, although it was still a hard day."