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Tejay van Garderen (BMC) joins Greg LeMond and Andy Hampsten as the only Americans to win the Tour's young rider classification.
US rider looking to follow in LeMond's footsteps
Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) clinched the best young rider classification at the 2012 Tour de France on Sunday on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, and the 23-year-old American immediately stated his ambition to turn white to yellow over the next few seasons.
After finishing 47th in the bunch sprint on the Tour's final day, Van Garderen secured fifth place in the overall general classification – two spots ahead of 2011 Tour de France winner and teammate Cadel Evans.
The Boulder, Colorado resident's consistency over the last three weeks has been one of the talking points of this year's Tour. He finished just over six minutes ahead of home favourite Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat) in the young riders classification and it was almost an hour back to the third place rider Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank).
One of the most iconic images of the entire race came on yesterday's time trial when Van Garderen passed Evans with just under 20km to go. Despite Evans suffering from sickness over the Tour's closing few days it was difficult not to envisage that moment as being representative, perhaps, of a passing of the torch from the older man to the younger man.
It was a moment not lost on reporters as they gathered round Van Garderen after today's final stage and asked him whether this time next year he could be competing for the yellow jersey. After all, the last two American winners of the Tour's white jersey – Greg LeMond (1984) and Andrew Hampsten (1986) – both went on to Grand Tour success. LeMond graduated to become a three-time winner of the Tour (1986, 1989 and 1990) and Hampsten won the Giro d'Italia in 1988.
"A year might be a bit soon, but in a few years I think it's possible," Van Garderen said.
"I think it'll be a few years before I can think about switching this colour. I'm still eligible next year [for white] so maybe I can think about winning this again first. Being able to compete and hold my own in a three-week race has been wild."
Yesterday Van Garderen dedicated his position in the standings to the victims of the cinema shooting in his home state of Colorado. Across the Atlantic his progress has been closely followed and celebrated and he revealed that he was looking forward to going home and absorbing it all.
"My wife says what's happening in the States is incredible," he said. "I'm not on Twitter or anything so it hasn't really soaked in yet. So I can't wait to get home and get the reaction."