Tejay van Garderen is set to reprise his role as second in command to Cadel Evans on the BMC team at the 2013 Tour de France but the American does not believe that riding in support of the Australian will necessarily prove detrimental to his own ambitions in July.
Van Garderen finished the 2012 Tour two places ahead of Evans in 5th, prompting speculation that there might be a generational shift in the BMC hierarchy for the coming season. At the BMC team presentation in Nazareth, Belgium, however, van Garderen calmly debunked talk of a leadership contest as he talked reporters through his status on BMC’s Tour squad.
“He’s the leader for sure,” van Garderen said of Evans. “I think I’ll be given a bit of a free role to ride my own race. If Cadel’s the leader at the Tour, that doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to get a result. If he’s the leader at the Tour, I can help him out, but that doesn’t mean that once the finish line comes, I have to hit my brakes and lose five minutes before I cross the line. If I’m going to be up there in the mountains, even if I’m helping him, I’m still going to be up there.”
Asked if working for Evans at the Tour would prevent him from riding his own race, van Garderen looked to put his performance last July in perspective, pointing out that although he won the white jersey, he ultimately finished over 11 minutes down on winner Bradley Wiggins and was never in a position to do anything other than follow the wheels in the lead group.
“Well, what is ‘my own race’? Did you see me attack in the last Tour? No, I was just trying to follow the best wheel I could, and sometimes that was with the leaders or in a group behind the leaders, a couple of minutes back. If Wiggins, Froome and Nibali were off the front, I was mainly in the group with Van Den Broeck and that was my level. So I don’t expect to jump two levels and be able to attack off the front. I think I’m still going to be trying to follow the best wheel I can.”
Nonetheless, van Garderen did note that he did not expect to be requested to wait for Evans in the event that his leader was dropped in the mountains. “I don’t think I’ll be called upon to do that. I think I’ll help Cadel as much as I can from off the front of the race,” he said.
Van Garderen will begin his 2013 campaign at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina later this month, and his subsequent road to the Grand Départ in Corsica runs through Paris-Nice, Critérium International, the Tour of the Basque Country, Tour of California and Tour de Suisse. His programme intersects with that of Evans just once before July, at Critérium International, but van Garderen said that the reasoning was simple.
“We have two leaders and we want to win as many races as we can, so it’s a good idea to split up some of the GC guys so that we can find success all over the place,” van Garderen explained. “Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice overlap. Now, we could both go to Tirreno to try to win that, or we could try to win both races – that’s the mindset we’re in all year.”
Van Garderen dismissed the idea that either he or Evans had been dealt a better race programme and confessed to his bemusement at the ever-changing cacophony of opinions as to what constitutes the ideal build-up to the Tour.
“Every year, the ‘right’ programme changes,” van Garderen noted wryly. “A few years ago, a lot of the guys who went well on the Tour went to the Giro and didn’t race in June, and so that was the ‘right’ preparation. But then maybe the next year, someone who did the Giro sucked at the Tour and they said, ‘oh, he’s tired from the Giro.’
“But really, it has nothing to do with the race programme, which is so small in the preparation for the Tour. What’s really big is what we did already two months ago in November and December, and what you do in between the races, and how much rest you get. I don’t focus on whether I’m doing the ‘right’ thing, I just do what I’m doing, and I say I’ll make that the ‘right’ thing.”