Tejay Van Garderen proved himself a valuable asset to Tony Martin and helped pave the way for his German teammate to claim overall victory at Paris-Nice on Sunday.
The second-year pro played a key role in helping Martin get through Paris-Nice’s hardest climbing stage with his GC chances intact so that Martin could use his time trialing dominance to storm into the leader’s jersey for good in stage 6.
On the decisive climbing stage Thursday a day ahead of the individual time trial, Van Garderen buried himself over the Cat. 1 Col de la Mure to control the race and help create some splits among the leaders that would later pay dividends for his HTC-Highroad teammate.
“That was a brutal, hard day. Tony told me to go to the front and set a high tempo to neutralize any attacks. He does better when it’s a hard tempo and grind it out rather than going against guys like Brajkovic or Sánchez, punchy guys like that,” Van Garderen told VeloNews. “I went hard at the front, so he could follow the best over the top of the climb. It ended up perfect, because he gained some seconds on Wiggins and Rogers, and that set us up for the overall win.”
Martin’s dramatic Paris-Nice victory proved yet again that HTC-Highroad is more than just a sprinter’s team.
Mark Cavendish and Matt Goss can assure the team a high number of wins, but the squad has always taken pride in spreading its victories among several riders across all disciplines. So far in 2011, the team has already racked 13 wins by six different riders, and only one of those Ws has come from Cavendish.
Martin’s big win at Paris-Nice gives the team added confidence in the overall classification for upcoming stage races.
“Everyone seems to think that HTC is a sprinter’s team, with Cav, Goss, Degenkolb and Greipel last year, it seemed like we’d win every bunch sprint. Now every stage race we go to, we’re in there for a high placing,” Van Garderen said. “We’ve won Qatar, Algarve and Paris-Nice already this year, Cali and Bayern last year. We had Peter Velits finish third in a grand tour last year at the Vuelta. There’s a common misconception that we’re just a sprinter’s team, but we can win every type of race we go to.”
Van Garderen had words of high praise for Martin, who looks to be on track for a breakout season with TT victories and the overall at the Tour of Algarve and Paris-Nice.
“Tony is just so strong, he’s a beast. What he did in that time trial, when he had all the pressure on him to win, was just incredible. It doesn’t even phase him, he just said, ‘fuck it, I am here to win,’ and he did,” Van Garderen continued. “He’s very, very German in the way he’s so structured. I roomed with him at Mallorca, and every morning he would wake up and do the same core and stretching routine. He’ll eat exactly the same thing for breakfast every morning. If it’s five hours on the bike, he’ll be damned if he’s going to ride four hours and 59 minutes. He’s always on time. He’s a great person, a great teammate and he has a big heart.”
Van Garderen is hoping to get his chances to add to the team’s growing victory haul. After some heavy spring racing, he will skip a planned start at the Volta a Catalunya next week and reload for the Vuelta a País Vasco and a first-ever run through the Ardennes.
After that, he heads to California where he’d like to help HTC defend its title by making a run for the overall prize himself.