Tejay van Garderen, Cadel Evans and Philippe Gilbert head up BMC's 2013 Tour de France team
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Van Garderen says his role will be to soften up rivals for the Australian
Although there has been plenty of debate outside the BMC Racing Team about who might or should lead their Tour de France challenge, the team left no doubt about their intention to put their full weight behind 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans. Sitting alongside last year’s best young rider, Tejay van Garderen, who placed fifth on GC, Evans said he had recovered well from one of the hardest editions of the Giro d’Italia in recent years and described the team around him as even stronger than the one that helped him win the yellow jersey two years ago.
"After the Giro I had a bit of trouble waking up in the mornings for quite a while, but that’s normal," said the 36-year-old Australian. "But day by day you get better and the focus is more on recovery than on training. The important thing is recovery and this time around, as opposed to 2010, the last two weeks coming into the Tour I’ve felt a lot fresher."
Evans said he is unconcerned by the fact that other riders are being touted as the favourites, commenting: "It’s two years since I won it and everyone seems to have forgotten about me. Most people’s attention is focused on other riders, which is fine by me. It leaves me free to do my job."
The BMC leader said he had full confidence in his team. "We had a good team in 2011, good enough to win the Tour, but I think we’re coming here with a better team, a slightly more focused team, a team that knows how to win the Tour, a team that comes with the confidence of having won the Tour, and that certainly helps."
One key addition is van Garderen, who immediately nixed any idea that he might be thinking about personal objectives. "The first goal is to get Cadel on the podium or the win. Part of that strategy is having me as an extra card to play to attack Sky, or Contador, or some of the other favourites. That kind of strategy only works if you’ve got two guys who are close on GC. If I attack and I’m half an hour down then they don’t care, but if I’m a minute down then Cadel can maybe sit there, they chase and Cadel can make an attack on top of mine. That’s the strategy. If we gave a guy capable of winning this race, it’s going to be him and not me," he admitted.
The American said he is not thinking about defending the white jersey, describing it as "not the immediate goal. If it happens, it happens." Of his own prospects of finishing on the Tour podium he said, "I think it will be a couple of years before I’m ready to do that."
He confirmed he always knew he would be riding this Tour in support of Evans and is not disappointed to have that role in spite of his success in the Tour last year. "I knew Cadel had a few more years on his contract and a few more years of capability and motivation. He’s won the Tour, so I wasn’t expecting to be the captain," van Garderen affirmed. "The team’s been really fair. Just about every race I’ve done this year I’ve been the leader. I’ve stood on three stage race podiums this year and just off a couple more. I can’t say the team hasn’t been fair to me."
Asked about Evans doubling up the Giro and Tour and about the toll that might have taken, van Garderen said he believes the Australian is one of the few riders who could cope with that kind of workload and added that other team-mates had told him Evans had been in great shape during a pre-Tour high-altitude training camp. He also played down the likelihood of having to step into the Australian’s shoes in the event of some unexpected setback.
"I don’t think anything’s going to happen with Cadel. I think he’s strong. I think he’s coming here with good form and a lot of confidence. He’s probably one of the most skilled when it comes to surviving the hectic first week," said van Garderen.
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