Van Garderen set to be only third US winner of Tour de France’s best young rider award
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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Van Garderen set to be only third US winner of Tour de France’s best young rider award

by Shane Stokes at 3:57 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
White jersey secured by BMC Racing Team rider with strong final time trial

Tejay Van GarderenHighlighting his potential as a Grand Tour rider, Tejay van Garderen today set himself up to be only the third US winner of the white jersey in the Tour de France, following in the wheeltracks of Greg LeMond and Andy Hampsten.

Both of those went on to win Grand Tours, with LeMond winning the Tour in 1986, 1989 and 1990, and Hampsten taking the 1988 Giro d’Italia.

Van Garderen will also become the best-placed American rider in the Tour in three years, with his fifth place overall following on from Lance Armstrong’s podium place in 2009.

In the years since, Chris Horner’s ninth in 2009 and Tom Danielson’s eighth last year were the highest finishes by US riders.

Given that he’s just 23 years of age, his performance shows that he can legitimately be considered a future contender for the overall title.

“If you told me in the beginning, I would have said you were crazy that I could be fifth overall in the Tour de France,” a delighted Van Garderen told reporters at the finish. “I am thrilled and I think it is the start of a lot of good things to come.”

He sealed his fifth place overall with a strong seventh in today’s final time trial. He competed the course one minute 48 seconds faster than Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto Belisol), closing to with 49 seconds of him in the overall standings.

He was followed by BMC Racing Team directeur sportif John Lelangue, who gave him regular encouragement via loudspeaker, and whom he said helped him to remain concentrated despite mounting fatigue.

“I didn't know what to expect. I mean, 53 kilometres after three weeks of racing is a long ways,” he said. “I just wanted to give it my all and see what happened. John definitely did a good job motivating me and he did a good job just telling me what to expect on the course. He kept me calm when I needed to be kept calm and it was evenly paced and... well, I wouldn't really say that – I think I kind of died out there, but John was definitely a good motivator.”

Van Garderen started behind team leader Cadel Evans in the test and actually caught the Australian, who won the Tour overall last year. The moment is seen by some as a passing of the baton, although Van Garderen said that he’s reluctant to write off Evans just yet.

“I think Cadel has had a bit of sickness. He's been dealing with some stuff during this Tour but I still think he has another Tour win in him and if he can come back next year and win it, I'll be happy to help him,” he vowed.

Tomorrow he’ll race onto the Champs Elysees in the white jersey and fifth place overall, and is excited by that thought. “It's going to be incredible,” he said, before adding a tribute. “Actually I want to dedicate it to all the people who lost their lives in Colorado with the shooting there because that was devastating news. That's close to my home in Boulder and I want to say that my thoughts are with them; I'll be thinking of them in Paris tomorrow.”

Given that he’s just 23 years of age, many will take his Tour performance as a sign that he could fight for the overall in the future. He confirmed that was a big goal for him, but also acknowledged that he will need more time before he is in a position to try to win the race.

“I have dreamed of winning this race ever since I was nine years old,” he said. “I think I still have a couple more levels to jump before I can get on the top step of the podium but, like I said, I think this is a good start.”

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