Tejay van Garderen (BMC) says that his consistency will be key when it comes to moving back up the overall classification of the Tour de France after slipping out of the top 10 in the final high mountain stage in the Pyrenees. As others suffer from fatigue in the Alps next week, van Garderen believes that he will be able to gain places in the GC.
After being in the bubble of the Tour for a week, the rest day is an opportunity for riders and teams to take stock. Van Garderen believes he can be relatively pleased with where he lies overall given that he is closer to the yellow jersey than he was at this point a year ago, despite being further down the general classification. On that occasion, van Garderen was more than two minutes down in second place as the Tour left the Pyrenees. This time around, he is 11th overall, but just 1:01 behind.
“If I look back, in 2012 when I finished in fifth place the first summit finish to Planche des Belle Filles and also at Pierre St Martin [in 2015 -ed], when I was in the middle of a really good Tour, that first summit finish was a real struggle,” van Garderen said in a brief press conference at BMC’s hotel in Andorra la Vella on Monday morning.
“It’s not a big surprise that I lost a little bit yesterday, but I tend to keep my consistency. I think that a lot of these guys are still a little bit fresh, but once fatigue starts to set in, I think that I can knock a few of those guys off ahead of me. Everything is still to play for, everything is still within a minute, and that’s pretty incredible considering all the mountains we’ve already climbed.”
This year’s Tour de France is much tighter than the previous edition. The mountains came much later in 2015 than they did this year, but once they arrived, the gaps opened up greatly, and the top 10 was quickly spread over almost nine minutes. This year, there is barely a minute in it. Van Garderen believes that some of the main favourites were holding out for the next rendezvous at Mont Ventoux on Thursday, but expects that the close margins at the top of the overall standings will make for a much more aggressive race in the Alps.
“I think it means that [Chris] Froome might not be so defensive and go on the attack, especially on the Ventoux,” said van Garderen. “I think that’s such an iconic climb, and it’s the only real iconic climb of the Tour de France this year. All the favourites want to win that stage so I don’t think that you’re going to see Chris Froome sitting behind a Sky train, I think that you’re going to see him going up the road.
“I think that the two front runners Froome and [Nairo] Quintana were definitely holding back, and the others were trying to give everything that they had going up that climb [Arcalis], and I think that’s only for my benefit. I didn’t have that snap to respond to them, but I’m happy to let them attack and attack and if I can keep my consistency then I think they’re going to fade and hopefully I’ll be right there.”
Unlike last year, van Garderen is sharing the leadership with new teammate Richie Porte. The two are separated by just over a minute after a mechanical problem for Porte on stage two caused him to lose 1:45 on his rivals. In Andorra, Porte went up the road with Froome and Quintana, while van Garderen toiled alone. The American says that he and Porte will continue to ride their own races for the moment.
“Richie is free to attack and free to follow moves,” he said. “If we get the opportunity to ride together when we’re both feeling good, then that’s a good scenario to have, but right now doubling down on having a GC guy… If one of us ends up losing 30 minutes, then we have another one. If we get the opportunity to work together, then we will, but I think it’s more about doubling down.”
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