- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON, France (AP) - The Tour de France entered the Pyrenees on Tuesday for the first of three mountain stages that may well determine the final podium of this year’s race.

American Tejay van Garderen and young French prodigy Romain Bardet suffered on the Port de Bales climb, cracking in the stage’s final 25 kilometers and most likely losing any hope of a podium placing in Paris.

Here are five things to know about the Tour de France on Tuesday:

VAN GARDEREN GUTTED: American rider Tejay van Garderen was the biggest loser among the Top 10 yellow jersey contenders, blowing up on the first “beyond category” Pyreneen climb and most likely losing his chance of becoming the first American to score a Tour de France podium finish since Greg Lemond 24 years ago.

The 25-year-old Montana native looked dejected when he freewheeled up to his BMC Racing team bus after the stage. A team staffer tried to shepherd him through a crowd of reporters outside his bus, but Van Garderen stopped, saying “Let’s just get this over with so it’s done,” and bravely answered a handful of questions before heading to the showers:

“What happened?”

“I just didn’t have the legs, I felt a bit empty.”

“What was going through your mind?”

“Just hang onto my boys and limit the losses, I don’t know.”

Van Garderen had started the day in fifth place, less than a minute behind his third and fourth place rivals for a spot on the Paris podium when the race finishes July 27.

After conceding more than three-and-a-half minutes to yellow jersey holder Vincenzo Nibali by cracking on the Port de Bales, Van Garderen is now in sixth place overall, 9:25 behind Nibali and more than four minutes away from third place Thibaut Pinot.

“It’s definitely disappointing,” Van Garderen said, “I had high hopes for a podium and now it looks like it’s taken a big hit.”

Team boss Jim Ochowicz expressed surprise at Van Garderen’s implosion in the Pyrenees, after the rider had shown in the Alps he could hang with the Tour’s strongest climbers.

“Tejay’s legs just went,” Ochowicz said. “It’s not something I expected to see.”

Van Garderen is still the the most highly ranked American competing in the Tour, and he said he’s not giving up now.

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