SAN JOSE -- Tejay van Garderen left no doubt Friday that he is America's next big cycling star.
The slender Montanan struck decisively on a 19.6-mile individual time trial designed by descendants of the Marquis de Sade and in the process all but won the Amgen Tour of California.
Van Garderen scored a 23-second victory to win the sixth of eight stages of the tour that ends Sunday in Santa Rosa. Perhaps more important was extending his overall lead to 1 minute, 47 seconds over second-place Michael Rogers.
"No doubts about it, Tejay knows his time is here and he deserved to win that," said Rogers, who holds out little hope he can overcome the leader Saturday with a finish atop 3,865-foot Mount Diablo.
Few would dispute that assessment as van Garderen, 24, emerges as U.S. cycling's man of the moment.
It could not come at a better time as the sport has endured drug scandals that have ruined the reputations of such luminaries as Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis.
"I'm glad I can give American fans something to cheer about and maybe some little hope after recent events," van Garderen said.
They had plenty to applaud Friday in a hilly, windy time trial that culminated with a muscle-crying 1.1-mile climb on Metcalf Road.
Dutch sprinter Lieuwe Westra of Vacansoleil-DCM took second in the stage followed by Rohan Dennis of Team Garmin-Sharp. Rogers was fourth while fellow Aussie Cameron Meyer took sixth to leap into third place overall.
One of the prestage favorites, Dave Zabriskie of Garmin-Sharp, withdrew Friday morning after suffering a broken clavicle while warming up on the course.
While admiration for van Garderen grew with each hard push of the pedal, the young rider wasn't exactly celebrating.
He didn't even feel better on the final, twisting climb when he practically caught his closest competitors.
"There was no wind in the sails slogging up that climb," van Garderen said. "It hurt like hell."
In fact, the entire course proved challenging to the man who finished fifth in the 2012 Tour de France. Van Garderen didn't find many sections to relax. The one exception was a difficult descent that was so technical "you were holding your breath hoping you wouldn't crash."
He also lost radio contact with his team, meaning van Garderen had no idea how those in front of him were doing. So van Garderen -- the last rider to leave the start line -- kept pushing instead of worrying about the competition.
Cyclists had a big decision upon reaching the Metcalf climb with a grade of 10 percent in spots. The stretch of road is suited for lighter high-geared racers more than time trial bikes. Some such as Rogers sacrificed 15 or so seconds to switch bikes.
Not van Garderen, who started the day with a 42-second lead over Rogers. The BMC pro considered every possible calculation in making his decision. He decided it wasn't worth the risk.
"I was erring on the side of caution," said van Garderen, who brought his newborn daughter, Rylan, to the podium to celebrate the victory.
Amber Neben of Irvine had the scariest moment of the day when she slammed into the side of a mountain after it appeared a strong gust shoved her bicycle sideways.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.