He may be close to his 30th birthday and into his ninth season as a WorldTour rider, but 2018 marks the first time that Tejay van Garderen has been riding without a contract for the following year. Until now, with both HTC and now with BMC Racing, the American has had long-term deals that were constantly renewed before entering the final 12 months. It’s a new experience for the all-rounder, and with BMC Racing’s future unclear beyond 2018, van Garderen enters a key point in his career with the Tour de France on the horizon.
July, for both van Garderen and BMC Racing, is set to revolve around Richie Porte, with the Australian looking to make the podium in the race for the first time. Van Garderen’s role in both the Tour de France and the current battle at the Tour de Suisse will be to support his leader, although there will be a degree of leeway in finding his own opportunities.
“The form coming into the race has been pretty good. I spent some time at altitude after California and I’m here to support Richie. I feel good and the sensations are alright,” Van Garderen told Cyclingnews at Suisse, where he currently holds a top-10 place on GC ahead of the first crucial mountain stage.
“The next couple of months are about this race and then the Tour de France. Straight after here I head to some training camps with the climbers for the Tour. After that, I’m not sure. I think that the Vuelta is on my programme, so obviously every race I’m in is a big objective. There is no form-finding racing any more. It’s produce time.
“It’s my understanding that in Suisse and in the Tour, it’s all for Richie," van Garderen said. "You never know what can happen, and you look at what happened to Richie in 2014 when Froome crashed. I’d never wish that, but you’ve got to be prepared for that scenario. But for now it’s clear that Richie is our guy and he’s the leader. I’ll be working for him.”
BMC head into the mountains at Suisse with Stefan Kung in yellow and Porte well set in the GC after the team won the opening team time trial. However, the real GC has not yet taken shape, with Wednesday’s stage set to provide a genuine shake-up. Van Garderen’s remit is to offer Porte support but also provide overall cover by racing consistently when called up.
“With the TT at the end of the race, I’ll go full gas. There’s no question about that and then my job isn’t to work on the flats. So, if I’m up there working for Richie, I could find myself up there on GC, even though that’s not the main objective. My personal objectives are to show up at races as fit as I can and help wherever I can.”
On the one hand, riding in the services of others will not help van Garderen pick up WorldTour points – the currency on which transfers are assessed and judged.
“We don’t know where the team is at and I’m on a contract year, so there’s pressure. So there’s pressure to perform and how good a teammate I am, rather than where I am on the results sheet," he said.
"I’ve nothing signed. I’ve talked to a few, but so far nothing is confirmed. It’s just talks. There are a lot of good teams out there, and some are more attractive than others. There are a lot of teams that I wouldn’t mind riding for. I can give you a list, but it’s a long one.”
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