Van Garderen said TT slump two years ago worried him prior to yesterday’s race against the clock
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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Van Garderen said TT slump two years ago worried him prior to yesterday’s race against the clock

by VeloNation Press at 11:36 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
USA Pro Challenge leader says he’s learned a lot and improved greatly since 2011; looking good for overall victory

Tejay van GarderenThird in 2011, second last year and now firmly in the driving seat; Tejay van Garderen is looking increasingly likely to take the final overall classification of the USA Pro Challenge after he aced yesterday’s uphill time trial and extended his overall lead.

Van Garderen was fastest in the 16.1 kilometre race to Vail, starting last and overhauling longtime stage leader Andrew Talansky in the closing seconds of the stage. He beat the Garmin-Sharp rider by four seconds, with the rider regarded as his biggest rival, Talansky’s team-mate Tom Danielson, finishing a full one minute two seconds back.

Reacting afterwards, van Garderen admitted he was nervous because he lost the race lead in the time trial two years ago, eventually finishing third overall in the race. Fortunately history didn’t repeat itself and he extended his lead, moving well clear of the others.

He will start today’s penultimate stage one and a half minutes ahead of team-mate Mathias Frank, and a further twelve seconds ahead of Danielson. That puts him in a very strong position indeed.

“It took me a long time to forget that 2011 actually happened. Last year, I have to say, it was equally as disappointing,” he admitted. “It looked as though I had a firm grip on the race win, but that year Christian had the ride of his life.

“This race has been so lucid for me; I’ve been able to taste it, but not quite grab it yet. I feel like this year, things are finally starting to go right.”

Van Garderen said the intensity of yesterday’s effort was all the most pronounced because the race is taking place at altitude. “Up there, your lungs are searing in the thin air. You have to remind yourself that it’s okay. I was surprised that I got the stage win because I felt pretty bad coming in there at the end. Hopefully we can hold this jersey through Denver.”

He may have won, but he still feels he didn’t get the pacing exactly right. He believes that he went too hard too soon, not knowing how hard to push it because of the height, and was fading inside the final two kilometres. However he had enough of an advantage to hold on.

The race continues later today with a lumpy stage to Ft. Collins. It’s noticeably less complicated than Thursday’s stage four, though, and unless something unexpected happens, he should hold on. Still, he doesn’t want to jinx himself by presuming all will be fine.

“There’s a giant list of things that could happen, but I don’t want to start thinking too negatively. This is a bike race and there’s a lot that could go wrong – a crash or a tire pop,” he said. “I have full confidence in my team that we’re strong enough to accomplish anything. Hopefully we can keep it up to Denver.”

Van Garderen has long been seen as one of the USA’s most talented young riders, but hasn’t always delivered when expected to do so. His difficulties in this year’s Tour de France after taking a fine fifth last year are one example.

However he’s bounced back well, and said that he has come to terms with dealing with pressure.

“There are always expectations – we’re paid to do this job. If you’re the leader of the team, there are always expectations that go with that,” he explained. “There have been times that I have put unnecessary pressure on myself, but I think you just really have to try and put that aside and focus on yourself and what you can do.

“Sometimes I’ve been my own worst enemy in that regard, but I’ve definitely done a lot to work on myself. At the end of the day, we’re just riding bikes out there – it’s not a bad gig.”

He’s still just 23 years of age, and should therefore have several more years of development and improvement ahead of him. The realisation that he’s better than he was in the past gives him confidence, and shows that his momentum is continuing, notwithstanding occasional disappointments such as the 2013 Tour.

“Did you see my ride two years ago!? I’ve grown up a lot and I really have a lot more experience,” he said, when asked how he had changed in the meantime. “I now have four Grand Tours in my legs and I think I’m just a lot smarter and calmer.

“I think in 2011 a lot of things just stressed me out. I’m more confident now and I know I can pull it out when I need to.”

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