Tejay van Garderen rolled back the years last week to take his best result at the Criterium du Dauphine in four years with second place behind winner Jakob Fuglsang. The result was also van Garderen's most consistent performance since changing teams at the start of the year and with the Tour de France around the corner, the American is set to play a key role in his team's July plans.
Van Garderen's runner-up spot in France was built around his second place in the individual time trial on stage 4 and then three dogged performances in the final three mountain stages.
"Whenever there's a time trial I've shown that I can be up there. I don't think that it was a surprise with my ride. I was fourth in the Paris-Nice time trial earlier in the year and I think I'm certainly pleased with it. I was happy with my result," the American told Cyclingnews.
Since moving from BMC Racing to EF Education First, the 30-year-old has settled into a more relaxed environment. Gone are the days Tour de France GC pressure and expectations, with the team setting van Garderen realistic goals at each of the races he attends. The Dauphine results represented his best WorldTour GC position in more than 12 months, but van Garderen isn't getting carried away.
"I'm not really looking at a trajectory," he said. "I'm just looking to arrive at every race I come to as prepared as possible. I want to do what I can and I want to perform for the team in whatever they need me to do. I'm in year 10 now of my career, so there's not much I haven’t seen. I just let the races come."
EF Education First are set to build their Tour de France ambitions around Rigoberto Uran, who was second in the race two years ago. That said, they will arrive in Brussels in July with a number of goals. The team lacks a pedigree sprinter, but a result in the team time trial, along with Michael Woods’ stage hunting prowess and Alberto Bettiol's breakthrough season, will also factor into the squad's strategy. Van Garderen will be charged with protecting Uran in the Tour's mountains, but he may also have a chance to impress.
"With the Tour, we're going with the idea that Uran will be our main GC guy," van Garderen said. "We've got a good team around him, and we all believe in him. I was training with him in Colombia after the Tour of California, and he's a great guy. The team has a lot of faith in him, but at the same time, this isn't a team that likes to put every egg in one basket.
"The first goal is the team time trial, and we're going to try and have a really good showing there. The objective is to win that one. We're going to look for stage opportunities and GC. Everyone is going to have an opportunity, and I think we're going to have a great Tour."