Tejay Van Garderen to race each day ‘like I’m going for the win’
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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tejay Van Garderen to race each day ‘like I’m going for the win’

by Shane Stokes at 1:00 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Tour of California
 
Tour of California is major goal for BMC Racing Team rider

Tejay Van GarderenFifth last year, then later third in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Tejay Van Garderen is clear on what he wants to achieve in the 2012 Amgen Tour of California.

“My goal here is the podium,” the 23 year old said, while also acknowledging that the competition would be high. “There are definitely some really good riders here for the general classification – Chris Horner and Vincenzo Nibali come to mind. I'm aiming to win, but my goal is really the podium. So you'll see me race every day like I'm trying to win.”

A strong climber and time trialist, the BMC Racing Team rider is regarded as one of the best American stage race talents. He highlighted his promise in 2010 when he finished third overall in the Criterium du Dauphine, and last year was also second overall in the Volta ao Algarve, second in the prologue time trial in the Tour de Suisse and won the time trial in the Tour of Utah.

This season he clocked up a fine fifth place plus the best young rider classification in Paris-Nice, but later had to abandon another target, the Tour de Romandie, when he hit a tree branch on a descent and suffered facial lacerations.

“My first goal of the season was Paris-Nice and everything went well. I kind of got lucky on the day with the crosswind and I had some good form there,” he said.

Of Romandie, he has fully recovered from the injury and is ready to go in California. The race is his first big target of the season, and he’s determined to make a strong impression.

“I think the biggest thing I can do is assess my level of fitness and be honest with myself and stay calm when I'm under pressure,” he said, when asked about his likely tactics. “Last year, when I was put under pressure, I went too deep and lost some big time. So if I can stay calm this year, I should be able to reach the podium.”

Van Garderen is up against a number of very strong riders, with the in-form contenders including defending champion Chris Horner (RadioShack Nissan), Tom Danielson (Garmin Barracuda), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas Cannondale) and others.

The opposition will ensure a tough battle, but he believes the 2012 parcours is to his advantage. “I feel the course does suit me more than last year because there's a long, flat time trial,” he said. “So I think there could be bigger gaps between guys like me and guys who are pure climbers. Plus, there's only one hard finish that comes toward the end of the race.

“It wouldn't be a surprise to see people be on more of an even level until we get to that summit finish at Mt. Baldy near the end.”

For Van Garderen, he believes the race will come down to two stages in particular; the aforementioned time trial, which will cover 29.7 kilometres in Bakersfield on Thursday, and then Saturday’s 126 kilometre leg from Ontario to Mt. Baldy.

There will be another selective stage, but he sees it more about thinning out the field rather than causing serious splits. “Big Bear will probably be a group of 30 or so - like it was when Peter Sagan won two years ago,” he said, referring to stage six next Friday.

“Big Bear is a climb that's not so decisive but it will be such a hard, grinding day that it will definitely separate the guys who can recover faster for Mount Baldy the next day.”

Van Garderen will likely be nervous about the specialist climbers on that next stage, but if things play out the way he foresees it, he could have a useful buffer over the flyweights.

“The time trial is going to be pretty flat, fast, windy and hot, as opposed to Solvang, which was more up and down, had some corners and was a little bit technical and required more thinking,” he predicted. “I think this time trial is more for the pure time trialists. So, ultimately, you could see bigger time gaps.”

He will be joined by fellow Americans George Hincapie and Brent Bookwalter on the team, as well as Steve Cummings, Yannick Eijssen, Steve Morabito, Tim Roe and Greg Van Avermaet.

Other big guns such as Tour de France champion Cadel Evans and 2011 WorldTour rankings winner Philippe Gilbert are not taking part; he’ll likely aid both in the Tour de France, so the Amgen Tour of California is a chance for Van Garderen to chase personal targets and also to shine on home soil.
 

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