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Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) riding in yellow.
Three-year deal from BMC impossible to turn down
Tejay Van Garderen has stated his ambition of riding as Cadel Evans’ right hand man in the mountains of the Tour de France in 2012. The American climber signed a three-year deal with Evans’ BMC squad on August 1, despite interest from a raft of teams including Garmin-Cervelo, Sky and Rabobank.
Although other teams were willing to match BMC’s financial offer, it was the longevity of a three-year contract, as well as the fact that the squad had been following Van Garderen from an early age, that helped swing the deal.
“They had been interested in me since before I went to Rabobank, so it’s good to have a team that has been following you for a long time rather one that had just seen some recent results. They saw me come right through the juniors and saw that I’d been consistent, and that meant a lot to me,” Van Garderen told Cyclingnews.
“Rabobank was interested in taking me back and Garmin was really interested. RadioShack showed some interest as well, but the fact that their sponsorship hunt ended pretty late meant they couldn’t make an offer until I was into negotiations with other teams. Leopard Trek expressed interest and Sky expressed a lot of interest.”
Van Garderen would not comment on the size of the financial package offered by BMC but did say that the rumoured amount, 1.25 million Euro per season, was not correct.
“That’s exaggerated. For sure BMC made a really good offer and showed that they wanted to invest and take a risk to some degree - but that figure is exaggerated.
“The biggest thing with BMC wasn’t that they were one of the top offers, because a number of teams were willing to match it. The biggest thing was that they were able to offer a three-year contract. I’ve had to deal with contracts and the stress and obviously I’ve seen what’s happened with HTC, so to have two years free of that, be able to put it totally out of my mind and have a secure future, that was a really big thing for me.”
Van Garderen may have signed for the team in August under UCI rules that all riders must follow, but he admitted that he had agreed terms as far back as the Tour de Suisse in June.
With his future now secure for the next three seasons, Van Garderen can turn his attention back to the road, where he has a number of important goals. Since turning professional in 2010, he has made no secret of his desire to lead a Grand Tour team, and at 23 years of age he believes that BMC will be the best home to realise those hopes.
For the next year at least he will ride in support of Cadel Evans, this year’s Tour de France winner. But unlike his time at HTC, it will mark a new phase of Van Garderen’s career, as he was never in a position of working for a true grand tour leader at his former team.
“It’s a super-deep team talent wise,” he told Cyclingnews. “My role will be to be the leader at races likes Paris-Nice and Tour of California. When and if I go to the Tour I’ll be one of Evans’ right hand men. It seems that a lot of the teams he’s been on he’s missed support in the mountains, so if I can give him some support it would be beneficial for me to work for a leader like him. That would be a lot more beneficial for me than riding on the flats for Cavendish, although I certainly enjoyed my Tour de France experience with HTC.
“I definitely want to make the Tour de France team and I think that will be the number one goal. If I’m Cadel’s man in the mountains and can do a good job of helping him, then that will give me opportunities for the white jersey or riding well in GC myself. I’m not saying my goal is top ten in the Tour but it’s a possibility."
The cloud at BMC
Despite Evans’ success on the road this season, BMC and team owner Andy Rhis have been dogged by doping stories. Floyd Landis made several allegations surrounding Rhis’ involvement with doping practices at Phonak, while Alessandro Ballan, Thomas Frei and several other riders have either been embroiled in allegations while at previous teams or tested positive. A part-time soigneur was also arrested earlier this year for possessing doping products.
Despite all this Van Garderen, a rider who like fellow recruit Marco Pinotti has made clear anti-doping statements in the past, believes that BMC is a progressive team in the fight against doping.
“For sure they’re very strict on anti-doping and they’ve maybe got some bad luck with the story on the soigneur they had. It could have happened to anyone and they took care of it right away. You’ll never find a team that hasn’t been touched by a doping cloud but BMC definitely has a clear stance,” he said.
“Before I signed anything they wanted to see my biological passport data and wanted to make sure it was in order. That’s a standard procedure because they don’t want to hire anyone with a question mark over their name. They’re one of the more progressive teams.”
Teaming up with Phinney
Signing for BMC will mean Van Garderen to join up with his American friend Taylor Phinney. The pair have been close for a number of years and train together when based in Europe. Van Garderen joining up with Phinney is a clear indication of BMC’s design to sign available US talent.
“That was one of the big draws,” Phinney said. “We’re close friends and we have a lot of fun together. He’s going to be one of the groomsmen at my wedding. We compliment each other well, because our strengths don’t cross over.”