BMC Racing is hoping Tejay van Garderen’s run at the Giro d’Italia for 2017 will kick-start his grand tour racing career.
After a few missteps in the Tour de France, the 28-year-old American is taking on the corsa rosa as his primary 2017 GC goal, with BMC designating Richie Porte as the sole leader in the Tour de France next July.
BMC’s riders and staff insist the Giro challenge is a chance for van Garderen to reestablish his grand tour credentials, and say the Giro an opportunity, not a demotion.
“I think he should keep his head on straight, and not look at this as a ‘downgrade.’ No way does no Tour de France mean that he’s not a top rider,” said new BMC teammate Nicholas Roche, who is expected to ride the Tour with Porte. “I’ve known Tejay since his debut, and he’s always fighting, fighting, and he’ll keep on fighting. Some say he’s had a bad year, but don’t forget he is one of the peloton’s most talented riders. I am sure he has loads more in him.”
Twice fifth in the Tour de France, van Garderen abandoned the 2015 Tour and rode to 29th last summer, while co-leader Porte was fifth. For 2017, the team is backing the Tasmanian as its sole leader, and when the team presented van Garderen with his options, he opted to race the Giro d’Italia for what will be the first time in his career.
Spanish veteran Samuel Sánchez suggested the lateral move to the Giro is just what van Garderen needs to rediscover his footing. Sánchez pointed to his own experience with the Tour, where following some early struggles, he eventually won a stage, finished on the podium and won the best climber’s jersey at the French grand tour.
“He made the right choice. One shouldn’t obsess on the Tour de France,” Sánchez said. “I look back at my own experience. I went there at 23, and I couldn’t get my head around it, so I went to the Vuelta, and then came back to the Tour. I won stages, reached the podium, won the climber’s jersey. So if you want to do it in the Tour, sometimes it’s best to first do it in the Giro or Vuelta. So for Tejay to go to the Giro this year, that’s perfect, and he can focus on a strong result, then return to the Tour with renewed confidence.”
Porte also agreed that van Garderen’s move to the Giro is a good one, but admitted it will put more pressure on him next July.
“He’s never done the Giro before, and he said he wants to go there. The Giro suits his characteristics perfectly. He’s had some disappointments, but he’s super-motivated. I really hope it goes well for him,” Porte said. “From a mental point of view, it’s massive to have another guy to share the [Tour de France] pressure. As the sole leader, you do cop a bit more pressure, but I am ready for that.”
BMC general manager Jim Ochowicz said van Garderen will see a full team to support in his run at pink, and said the team hopes van Garderen returns to a “level he should be at.”
“Tejay is doing the Giro, with full-gas support and preparation. He can focus on it, and he’s good in that terrain. It’s good for his motivation,” Ochowicz said. “There were mistakes made that we know about that are fixable. Some of it was weather-related, nutrition-related. We know now, like little things like he didn’t have enough clothes on or he didn’t eat right at breakfast, these little details that lead to some big issues later on. Every rider is different.
“Richie is our leader for the Tour de France,” he continued. “What we’re working with Tejay is a program that gets him back at a level he should be at, from start to finish. He’s got a huge motor, including in any grand tour or smaller stage races, and some one-day races.”