Tejay van Garderen Feature: I’ve dreamed about the yellow jersey since I was nine years old
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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Tejay van Garderen Feature: I’ve dreamed about the yellow jersey since I was nine years old

by Shane Stokes at 3:37 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
 
BMC Racing Team rider says Evans is leader for Tour but he won’t pull his brakes

Tejay van GarderenTejay van Garderen, who was the BMC Racing Team’s best-placed finisher in last year’s Tour in fifth overall, two places better than designated leader and defending champion Cadel Evans, has said he won’t seek leadership in this year’s race.

However the young American has also said that he believes he can support Evans without needing to deliberately hamper his own chances, and that there is the possibility for both to ride well overall. In doing so, he shows the ambition to continue to perform well in the race.

“He is the leader for sure,” said van Garderen at yesterday’s team launch, ruling out any suggestion that he will try to be number one on the team. However he doesn’t see himself as a domestique either. “I think I will be given a bit of a free role to ride my own race. If Cadel is the leader at the Tour, that doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to get a result. If he is the leader at the Tour, then yeah, he can maybe win the Tour and we can help each other out or I can help him out, but that doesn’t mean that once the finish line comes that I have to hit my brakes, lose five minutes and then cross the line.

“If I am going to be up there in the mountains, even if I am helping him, I am going to be up there.”

Van Garderen gave an early indication of his talent when he finished second in the Presidential Tour of Turkey and third overall in the Criterium du Dauphiné in 2010 at 21 years of age. The latter result marked him out as a potential winner of the Tour down the line, and that impression was reinforced by his fifth overall in the same race last year.

Van Garderen was 23 at the time and the result was arguably the most impressive by a young rider since Alberto Contador’s win at 24 in 2007.

Evans went into last season’s race determined to take yellow again, but also conscious that he hadn’t enjoyed the same consistent build-up as he had done one year earlier. His challenge faltered as the race went on, with the Australian becoming ill. He eventually finished four minutes 45 seconds behind his team-mate, leading inevitably to the questions about who would lead the team this time round.

Evans will turn 36 next month but is adamant that he has at least one more top Tour in him. Van Garderen is clearly ambitious, but also says that he believes he likely needs more time to challenge for the top of the podium. He also rejects any suggestions that he could attack Evans and seek to commandeer team leadership.

“Where I am at right now in my development is like…there were climbers who were really good and I was just trying my best to follow,” he said, speaking of the 2012 race. “I was just following in the best wheel I could…sometimes that was with the leaders, sometimes that was in a group behind the leaders, a couple of minutes back.

“It was mainly Nibali, Froome and Wiggins who were out front. I was in a group with Van den Broeck. That was my level. So I don’t expect to jump two levels and be able to attack off the front…I think I am still going to be trying to follow the best wheel I can. I wouldn’t expect me to attack Cadel. Or even if I do attack, that could be a team tactic. I can attack off the front, Cadel can sit behind waiting for someone else to pull it back and he can go. That doesn’t lose me anything.”

He did however suggest he won’t be asked to hold back for the Australian. “The only scenario I see would be if Cadel gets dropped and I have to wait for him, which I did in last year’s Tour. I don’t think I am going to be called upon to do that. I think I will help Cadel as much as I can from off the front of the race.”

Further down the line, though, it’s clear that he wants to aim for the top. Asked if he always wanted to win the yellow jersey, he was clear in his answer. “Yes. I have dreamed about it since I was nine years old…”

Comparisons to his countryman, and a new generation’s responsibility:

Tejay van GarderenVan Garderen faced the press at the same time as his compatriot Taylor Phinney. They were asked if being on the same team was important for each other; van Garderen said he believes that there are benefits to that.

“Taylor and I are really close friends…it is good to have a good friend to hang out with and another American do to some shit talking with,” he said. “We train together a lot, we are both in Boulder when we get a chance to. We are good for each other, we push each other. We have different strengths but they overlap in a couple of different areas…like in a time trial.

“We both trained for the world championships together out in Boulder. He was telling me some of his training techniques and I was bouncing some ideas off him. He ended up second and I ended up fourth at the world championships – I think I pushed him and he certainly pushed me.”

When asked who is better of the two, Phinney laughed and said the question was not fair to pose. Van Garderen responded by saying that it is difficult to compare them, even if they do have some similarities.

“We have different strengths…I would never beat him on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, but I don’t think he would ever beat me up Alpe d’Huez,” he said, referencing their different physiques and results thus far. “But if you put us in a time trial, that is could be where we could overlap a little bit.”

Even then, there are also factors to take into account. “In a one day time trial, he is a bit better, but in a time trial at the end of a three week stage race, then I might be a bit better. So we overlap in some areas, and have our own strengths and weaknesses.”

Both riders have come into the sport at a time when the repercussions of the Lance Armstrong/US Postal Service doping are being felt. The sport has been shaken in the United States, with the Texan going from being a mainstream icon to someone who now casts a shadow over the sport.

Phinney shrugs off one journalist’s peculiar suggestion that American riders have been ‘sort of the bad guys of the last seven, eight, nine years,’ saying that the problem of doping was one that affected the whole sport. As for Van Garderen, he states that things have improved significantly and that the same risks, demands and pressures don’t exist as before.

“We are certainly proud to represent America and are proud to be where we are at,” he said. “Cycling had its problems in the past…but we stepped into a clean environment and that was due to people from the past. We weren’t the ones who cleaned up the sport; people before us cleaned up the sport and we were able to step into a clean sport.”

He accepts that as the new generation, they have a responsibility. “We definitely take that privilege to make sure the sport never relapses. We are always able to go to sleep at night knowing that none of our tests are going to show up positive and that all of our results are achieved in the correct way. But to say that we are the good guys and they [the older American riders] are the bad guys….I don’t think that is really fair.”


Also see: Taylor Phinney focussed on beating Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara in 2013

To hear the audio file of yesterday's press conference, click here:

 

Taylor Phinney and Tejay van Garderen interview Jan 2013 by Velonationprocycling on Mixcloud

 

 

 

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