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LES HERBIERS, France (VN) — The Tour de France is enormous, intense and career-defining. But why worry?
On the eve of his debut Tour de France, HTC-Highroad’s Tejay Van Garderen is eager but uncannily calm.
“In races I’m always kind of relaxed,” Van Garderen said on Friday. “Sometimes I have to force myself to get pumped up for things. Like pump some loud music or slap myself in the face a couple of times. But most of the time in every race, I just enjoy it.”
Although new to the Tour, the 22-year-old is certainly not new to the professional peloton.
Last year he finished third in the Critérium du Dauphiné (behind Jani Brajkovic and Alberto Contador) and rode well in the Vuelta a España.
This year, he took second overall at February’s Volta ao Algarve behind teammate Tony Martin and finished fifth overall at the Amgen Tour of California.
There is always pressure for riders at the Tour de France, but Van Garderen seems pleasantly unaffected. Perhaps two recent events have solidified his self-confidence.
First, he placed second to Fabian Cancellara in the Tour du Suisse prologue.
“Going in I was thinking, everyone is racing for second with Cancellara,” he said. “ So second is a win in my eyes. On the other hand, I’ve had seven second places in the last two years and zero wins. So it would have been nice to get a win. But Cancellara in his home country? It’s damn near impossible.”
Then there was another important event. Before he was given a vote of confidence by HTC director Ralf Aldag for the Tour team, he was given a vote of confidence by his girlfriend Jessica Phillips, to whom he is now engaged.
“That was definitely a happy moment and good for my head,” Van Garderen said of his engagement to Phillips, the 2002 U.S. national road champion and 2009 U.S. time trial champ. “Then I trained well and we just kinda hung out, relaxed and waited to see if I was going to get the call up. I was thrilled that Ralf called and said I was coming. Everything is good.”