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Van Garderen and Buchmann energized following Dauphiné podiums

American Tejay van Garderen gains confidence from second place at Critérium du Dauphiné, but remains committed to support role at the Tour de France

If the Critérium du Dauphiné is a harbinger of good things to come in July, two riders leave the French Alps oozing with confidence.

Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First) and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) both hit the podium Sunday in the eight-stage warm-up race ahead of the Tour de France.

For van Garderen — second place overall at 20 seconds behind winner Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) — his most notable European WorldTour stage race result since he was fifth at the 2017 Volta a Catalunya doesn’t change his mind about the Tour. The Coloradan, twice a top-5 at the Tour, says he’s going to race next month to support teammate Rigoberto Urán.

“It’s a nice confidence boost going into the Tour, where I will look to support Urán,” van Garderen said. “I’m happy with the result. The Dauphiné is a prestigious race, and to be on the podium shows a big level.”

Van Garderen, 30, hit the Dauphiné podium for the third time of his career. He was second in 2015 by just 10 seconds to Chris Froome, ceding the yellow jersey on the final stage when Froome won ahead of him at Valfréjus. Back in 2010, he was third behind Jani Brajkovic and Alberto Contador when he was emerging as a promising GC talent during his rookie season.

Sunday’s podium is van Garderen’s best result since moving from BMC Racing to EF Education First. He finished ninth at the Amgen Tour of California last month after keeping the lead in stage 4 in a controversial ruling by the race jury.

Van Garderen will head to the Tour next month as an important second option behind Urán, who is hoping to shake off a rash of crashes dating back to last year’s Tour in a bid to return to his 2017 form, when he gave Froome his closest challenge for the yellow jersey by 54 seconds.

Michael Woods is also expected to start his first Tour de France next month, though the Canadian did not start the Dauphiné’s final stage, citing stomach problems. Woods had finished every stage race he started dating back to the 2016 Tour of Poland.

Van Garderen said the Dauphiné’s time trial in stage 4, the day that Froome crashed heavily in training, was key to his overall placing. Van Garderen was second behind stage-winner Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), and defended his podium spot across the climbing stages.

“That time trial was the ace in my pocket,” van Garderen said. “I’m a good climber, but I’m not at the same level as those 60-kilo guys. The time trials are where I can really make a difference.”

Though some grumbled this year’s edition was rather light on climbing compared to other years — there was only one truly difficult mountain stage Saturday — a strong Dauphiné typically hints at good things for July.

Behind van Garderen, Buchmann earned an equally important podium spot with third at just one second behind the American. Buchmann has reached a new level in 2019, with victories and two third-place podiums in four stage-race starts this season. He also won a stage and was third overall at the Itzulia Basque Country in April.

“I made it onto the podium. I am more than happy,” Buchmann said. “It is a big result for me to finish a stage race like this on the podium. I am looking forward to the podium and hope to make a good result there.”

Buchmann will enter next month’s Tour hoping to punch into the top-10 overall, improving on his career-best 15th in 2017. No German has finished in the top-10 of the Tour since Andreas Klöden was fifth in 2009.