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SAINT-MALO, France (VN) — Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) didn’t expect to be starting the second half of the Tour de France parked in 50th, more than 35 minutes behind the yellow jersey.
Eleven days ago on Corsica, van Garderen started his third Tour as an outsider for the podium. Two brutal days in the Pyrénées surprisingly saw van Garderen languishing off the back, when normally he would be right in the front row, trading punches with the big boys.
Speaking to VeloNews before the start of Tuesday’s 10th stage, van Garderen said he was still at a loss about what happened in the Pyrénées.
“I would have liked to have been better. I don’t really have an answer to why,” van Garderen said. “I am not going to make any excuses. The legs were not there for some reason.”
Last year, van Garderen was one of the revelations of the Tour, becoming the third American to win the white jersey en route to placing fifth overall.
After winning the Amgen Tour of California in May, many expected van Garderen to pick up where he left off last year. BMC was backing Cadel Evans, but van Garderen would have a free ride.
Things went sideways, however, when van Garderen lost contact on the hors-categorie Pailhères climb, the first major test of the 2013 Tour.
When Sky upped the tempo at the front, van Garderen slipped further and further off the back. On Sunday, with Garmin-Sharp and Movistar blowing up the five-climb march across the Pyrénées, van Garderen ceded more time.
No one was more surprised than van Garderen. Although he crashed twice in the opening five stages and despite intense heat in the Pyrénées, he said he still does not have an explanation.
“Nothing really happened. There was no one thing that happened,” van Garderen said. “I am not going to sit here … sometimes that shit just happens. And I don’t know why.”
Although the 2013 Tour is a bust as far as the general classification goes, van Garderen remains confident that he is a rider for grand tours.
Despite the frustration, van Garderen is taking a philosophical view on what happened in the Pyrénées.
“In analyzing my power files, it wasn’t a number that I could not easily do in training. It was a good indicator that something was off, and not that I am not at that level,” he explained. “That’s a positive that I can take out of this, that I know I can get back to that level, that last year was not a fluke, that I can come back here next year and actually fight for GC.”
Van Garderen said he took stock on Monday’s rest day and tried to turn the page. He said he’s not losing any sleep over it right now, not with 10 days of racing ahead of him.
“That doesn’t do any good. I know what I’ve done in the past, and I know what I can do, so it’s still in me. For whatever reason, I couldn’t bring it out when I needed it,” he continued. “It’s not a matter if I am not as good a rider as I thought I was. I know I am good, so with age and experience, I need to figure out how to bring it out when I need it.”
With the setbacks on the GC fight, van Garderen will now hit the reset button.
He will be riding the remainder of the Tour with very different expectations. The podium, the white jersey, and a strong GC are out the window. Now it’s about taking something positive out of the Tour.
“Maybe now I can try for some breakaways. We have still Cadel in there with a fighting chance of a top-10, or at least a high finish in Paris. And I will give it my all in the time trials,” he said. “Now that the pressure is off, we have a little bit difference focus. Maybe we can have some fun with this Tour.”