LIEGE, Belgium (VN) – After a solid spring campaign, capped by the best young rider’s jersey and fifth overall at Paris-Nice, Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) is putting the finishing touches on his form with some hard racing in Europe before heading back to the United States.
The Tour of California is a major goal for the third-year pro, and he wants to make the most of his chances.
“I have had a couple of different goals this spring, and California is one of them,” van Garderen told VeloNews.com. “We will bring Greg (Van Avermaet) for a couple of the sprint stages, so we’ll have a strong team; but for the GC, I will be the guy.”
Van Garderen is slipping into that role of being “the guy” for GC more comfortably than ever this year.
With his move to BMC, his calendar has been structured to give him GC opportunities at races such as Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya, before switching into the role of elite helper at major races like Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour de France for guys like Cadel Evans or Phillipe Gilbert.
BMC Racing manager Jim Ochowicz said that type of freelancer role is perfect for van Garderen at this point of his career.
Van Garderen will be able to soak up the experience of helping Evans during the Tour and make the investment the team is hoping will pay off in a few years.
“The goal is to give Tejay some experience and give him races like (Paris-Nice) to give him a chance to ride for GC. He’s OK with that. I like the fact that he can handle responsibility,” Ochowicz told VeloNews.com.
That’s a responsibility that he wants to take on, and it will be a mentoring role for Cadel to gauge his efforts – to make sure we can utilize him as best we can in the right moments of the race, and making sure there’s a balance there.”
In the Ardennes classics, van Garderen raced Wednesday at Flèche Wallonne and will line up Sunday for Liège-Bastogne-Liège with the role of helping Gilbert.
“I’ve taken a little bit of a break, so I am not expecting to be at a great level in these races or be among the leaders. But I will do what I can do for Phil,’’ van Garderen said. “His form is coming really good; his confidence is back, and we’re pinning our hopes on him.”
Next, he will race at the Tour de Romandie alongside defending champion Evans and then preview some of the Tour stages before returning to the United States.
“I will take my chance at Romandie, help Cadel, and it will be good prep for California,” he said. “With the time trials, I would like to have a good showing myself.”
Van Garderen said he’s happy with his spring results and hopes to hit top form in time for California.
“The spring’s been good. I was happy with my fifth place at Paris-Nice and a good top-10 showing at Algarve. I think it’s gone pretty well,” he said. “At Catalunya, with the crazy weather, I pulled the plug there, but all in all I am happy with how the season’s gone so far.”
After California, he will race the U.S. nationals and the Critérium du Dauphiné before a likely second start in the Tour.
“It’s never for sure until the last minute [for the Tour] – that’s the plan so far,” he said.