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American Tejay Van Garderen before the 2009 World Championships
Challenge Mallorca a learning experience for American
Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia) enjoyed his professional debut on Sunday's stage one of the Challenge Mallorca, in Spain. The American came home in 69th place but worked for team sprinter André Greipel who, despite recent success at the Tour Down Under, could only manage 11th place.
Last year Van Garderen rode for the Rabobank Continental squad but signed for Bob Stapleton's team after securing second spot in the Tour de l'Avenir. However, Sunday's opening criterium around the streets of Palma marked a new dawn in the young professional's career and one that despite Greipel's loss, gave Van Garderen some vital learning experiences.
"It was a flat criterium style race so we were trying to set things up for Greipel. The team worked well to keep the bunch together but we couldn't get it organised in the end. It was a lot of fun and it was short and fast. I wouldn't say it was super-hard but it was good fun to get things started," Van Garderen told Cyclingnews.
The Mallorca Challenge allows riders to swap in and out of the squad and van Garderen will race stages three and five before the end of the week. However his learning curve began even before stage one, on the team bus before the start.
"Brian Holm was the director and he told us that our holidays were over and that if he told us to do something we had to do it without discussion and that we shouldn't talk over the radio. If we disagreed then we should talk after the race.
"It was a little nerve-racking to hear that when I was coming from development teams where I was hearing things like 'try and be at the front if you can and try and learn'. I'm not saying Brian put a ton of pressure on me but it was more professional and business-like."
As for the race itself, Van Garderen believes that the experience will prove important as he sets his sights on a starting place in both the Tour of California and Dauphine.
"I still have some things to learn, like how to be up there at the end for the team in the lead out. I don't have a position in the lead-out yet and as I'm new to the team they don't want to put too much pressure on me just yet but there were times when a group of some dangerous guys went up the road I'd be on the front to try and shut it down."