California first major goal for sophomore season
Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) will eventually get to the Tour de France, but the question now for the second-year pro is when.
His excellent rookie season in 2010, capped by third overall at the Dauphiné Libéré and a solid grand tour debut at the Vuelta a España, only fueled hopes that Van Garderen could emerge as America’s next grand tour star.
So will the Coloradan make his Tour de France debut this season?
HTC-Highroad officials admit they have him on the Tour long list, but caution that it could pay off in the long-run to let Van Garderen race another season without the pressure of the Tour.
“It would be easy to bring him to the Tour, but it’s a risk when you bring such a young rider to the Tour,” Holm told VeloNews. “You don’t want to squeeze a rider too soon. He will have plenty of Tours, and we still want him to be productive in 10 to 15 years.”
Van Garderen is racing this week at Paris-Nice, and started Tuesday’s third stage 73rd at 14 seconds back. What follows is a high-quality racing schedule that includes the Volta a Catalunya, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and then the Tour of California.
Holm said he believes Van Garderen has the right stuff to blossom into a grand tour rider, but said the team wants to give the Coloradan a chance to nurture his talent and not risking burning him out with too much, too soon.
“I think Tejay has a very bright future as a GC rider in the grand tours. It’s better to take it step-by-step and go from strength to strength, and Tejay understands that,” Holm said. “He’s very professional, he’s dedicated, he gets along with everyone on the team. He knows what he’s doing and he’s easy to work with. For his age, he’s extremely professional.”
Van Garderen also realizes that finding a spot on HTC-Highroad’s Tour nine will not be easy. Top sprinter Mark Cavendish brings at least four riders to work for him, leaving the GC hopes pinned on Tony Martin and Peter Velits, who popped for third last year at the Vuelta a España. That leaves one spot open and there’re a lot of quality riders at HTC angling for a ticket to the Tour.
“The Tour’s going to come down to a lot of things, if they want another guy for the flats, or if they want someone to pull for Peter on the climbs,” Van Garderen said. “Maybe they’ll say, ‘OK, you can go to the Tour, but at the Tour you have to work 100 percent on the flats. Or you can ride the Vuelta and ride your own GC.’ Nothing’s decided yet, but there’s really no bad outcome as far as I am concerned.”
So why not take Van Garderen to the Giro? The climber’s course, riddled with mountaintop finishes and a climbing time trial, is ideal for Van Garderen’s emerging consistency.
Van Garderen has something else in mind come May.
“California is in the way. The team wants me to do California and I think I can win California. That would be big for an American on an American team on the defending team, it would be huge,” he said. “If I go to the Giro, I could fight, fight, fight and maybe get top-10. Or I can go to California and try to win. I’ve looked at the route a bit. The TTs back in Solvang, that’s a course I prefer. With a few summit finishes, it will be a lot harder than last year.”