If all goes according to Tejay van Garderen’s 2020 racing ambitions, he will sip Chianti in May before digging into the Bordeaux in July.
Van Garderen is hoping to complete the Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double for the first time in his 11-year professional career.
“The Giro-Tour double is something I’ve never done before and it’s something that would be really interesting and motivating for me,” van Garderen told VeloNews. “I can safely say the Giro is part of my plan, and then hopefully I can follow that up with the Tour. [The Tour] might be determined by how well I come out of the Giro.”
Van Garderen revealed his racing ambitions while attending EF Education First’s team media and training camp in Calabasas, California. The squad pedaled long miles in the Santa Monica Mountains and also spent time getting fitted for new bikes and equipment by team staff and trainers.
The Giro-Tour double presents a sizable challenge in 2020, as the UCI WorldTour schedule has been compressed to accommodate the Tokyo Olympics. The Giro d’Italia runs May 9-31 and the Tour de France starts a week earlier than normal, kicking off June 27 in Nice. The new schedule leaves exactly four weeks off between the two grand tours.
Yet van Garderen’s racing schedule has shifted from where it has been in the past two seasons, which opens the door for him to target the goal. The disappearance of the Amgen Tour of California has freed him up to once again tackle the Giro. And van Garderen said he does not have specific training goals around the 2020 Olympics, which allows him a block of rest prior to the Tour.
“I’m still going to show up to every race ready to race, and if they want me [for the Olympics], they will select me, and if they don’t want me, it’s OK,” van Garderen said. “If I can do the double, and if they don’t want me for the Olympics, and I ball out at those two races, I’ll be happy.”
A grind across Italy
On paper, van Garderen’s diesel engine and strength in individual time trials make him a natural fit for this year’s Giro d’Italia route, which features three individual time trials and numerous stages over 200km in length.
Van Garderen said he was drawn to the Giro’s “old-school” route when it was announced earlier this year.
“Right now the Vuelta and Tour are having shorter and punchier stages, like with 20-percent kickers at the end of a 130km stage, which is great, and makes for explosive and exciting racing,” van Garderen said. “The Giro seems to buck the new trend with 215km mountain stages and long TT’s. I like that.”
And the Giro has been the site of one of van Garderen’s biggest wins. In 2017 he won the mountainous 18th stage of the Giro after riding in a breakaway alongside Mikel Landa.
But the Giro’s brutal course this year—the final week alone boasts five stages over 200km—will require van Garderen to recover quickly if he hopes to then race the Tour de France four weeks later. That’s why, at this point, his Giro-Tour double remains an ambition and not a definitive plan.
“The Giro is pretty much decided,” van Garderen said. “The [team] won’t want me at the Tour if I come out of the Giro and I’m on my knees. If I have a month solid to rest, do a little training, and maybe some altitude, I think I can show up for the Tour.”
EF’s lineup of explosive climbers seems custom-fit for the Tour de France, which boasts one uphill time trial, as well as six mountain stages under 170km in length. In a normal scenario, the team’s Colombian GC leader Rigoberto Uran would be the unquestioned leader for the race, due to his strengths in punchy climbs.
Yet Uran has yet to fully recover from a broken collarbone suffered in a nasty crash at the Vuelta a España. Thus, EF may decide to race the Tour with multiple protected riders.
“With Rigo being a question mark, we’re going to be taking a crew of guys like [Sergio] Higuita, Dani Martinez, Hugh Carthy, Mike Woods, because the Tour is fairly suited to all of them,” team boss Jonathan Vaughters said. “I think we can be very competitive.”
Van Garderen started the 2019 Tour de France as a super domestique for Uran and Woods, who led the squad’s initial ambitions at the race. Van Garderen abandoned the race with a fractured hand after crashing on stage 7.
“I was looking down at a noise my bike was making and I hit the median,” van Garderen said. “It was complete user error.”
Ambitions on the dirt
Van Garderen was part of a smaller group of EF riders who met in early December in Bentonville, Arkansas for a camp dedicated to the squad’s alternative racing ambitions in gravel, adventure, and mountain-bike events.
In 2019 the team sent squads to the Leadville MTB 100, Dirty Kanza, and other mass-participant events.
Van Garderen said he was initially uninterested in participating in the team’s alternative racing program, but became a convert as the season went on.
“When I first heard about it, I thought ‘this can be something for Lachlan [Morton] or [Taylor] Phinney and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing because these are the races I’ve dreamed about doing since I was a kid, not the Dirty Kanza,” he said. “Then I saw how much fun those guys had, and the crowds and the reception, and I saw what we were trying to accomplish, and I wanted to be part of it.”
Van Garderen does not have any specific gravel races on his calendar yet. Dirty Kanza’s 2020 date falls on the penultimate stage of the Giro d’Italia. The Leadville 100 MTB, however, does not conflict with any of his other races.
“Leadville is one I could do,” he said. “It’s pretty close to my house and it’s at the end of the season. That one could be a lot of fun.”
Add a dose of high-altitude suffering to Tejay van Garderen’s 2020 menu.