Tejay van Garderen (BMC) in general keeps his emotions and ambitions under control when talking to the media but the American seemed confident of his chances at Tirreno-Adriatico and ready to race aggressively when he talked to journalists after the pre-race press conference.
Van Garderen has opted for a low-key opening to the 2016 season after the disappointment of quitting both the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana in 2015. His second place behind Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) at the Ruta del Sol indicated he had recovered and trained well during the winter and he has the support of a strong BMC squad at Tirreno-Adriatico.
His only concern is giving away home turf advantage to his rivals of the calibre of Vincenzo Nibali.
“Fitness wise I feel good. If we were lining up for the USA Pro Cycling challenge, then I don’t think these guys would beat me,” he told Cyclingnews and other media. “But home court advantage means a lot. I’m going to stick the favourite tag on Vincenzo but I think I’m going to challenge him really well.
“The end of last season went pretty poorly, with exciting from the Tour and then taking an even earlier exit from the Vuelta. But I feel I started my work a little bit earlier this year and it feels like it’s definitely paid off. I think I came into the season well. I’m feeling really good and came into this one strong and I think we’ve got a shot at victory.”
Van Garderen admitted that he underestimated Valverde’s attack at the Ruta del Sol. The Spaniard attacked early on the finishing climb to Penas Blancas and van Garderen was unable to close the gap and defend the race lead he had secured by winning the time trial stage.
He gave the impression he will not make the same misjudgement at Tirreno-Adriatico.
“You can look at Andalucia (the Ruta del Sol) in a bunch of different ways,” he explained. “One is that Alejandro had home court advantage and he knew when the climb got hard. I was just thinking that when he went it was too far, that he’d die and I’d make my move with three kilometres to go and probably catch him. But when I hit out and went after him it was too late. He was very strong too and held out that gap. Home court advantage means a lot.”
Despite missing out on victory, Van Garderen is not worried about collecting a series of second places.
“I was counting the other day. I definitely have a lot of second places but I also have a lot of nice victories too. I think my wins balance out my second places,” he said.
The secret of racing in Italy, gaining time in the TTT
Van Garderen has raced infrequently in Italy since becoming a Grand Tour contender, calling Girona, Spain his European home. However he lived in Lucca for three years early in his career and knows the subtle but important differences of racing in different countries.
“I think every different region has a different style of racing,” he pointed out. “But racing is always hard.
“In Spain there are maybe wider roads and it’s less technical. France usually follows a template and it’s more predictable. As Vincenzo Nibali said during the press conference, there’s never one day that you can say that’s the day that we’re going to win Tirreno. You have to be cautious every day in Italy because any day can be a GC day.
“You’ve got to stay attentive. We’ve got a good group of Classics guys who can keep us out of trouble. We like where we’re sitting. We know we have to be prepared every day.”
Wednesday’s 22km team time trial is a simple out and back test but will be an important day for the overall contenders as they look to gain some precious seconds. Van Garderen knows he has a chance to gain time thanks to the strength of his BMC team and it is another reason for him to be so unusually bullish.
“The time trial is flat, 22km is not much, but perhaps you can gain ten seconds on some rivals,” van Garderen said. “Nibali has a strong team, Movistar usually brings a strong team, so I don’t think the gaps will be that big. I’m not sure who Purito has with him at Katusha but perhaps we can get a bit more time on guys like him.
“I think six of the eight guys are world champions in the team time trial. We’ll have a strong team and if we can take a few seconds there, then it’s all the better.”
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