The American all-rounder lost over two and half minutes to Team Sky's Chris Froome and Tinkoff-Saxo's Alberto Contador on the Dauphiné’s second stage, but like his rivals, he enjoyed a relatively quiet day on stage 3 with the race ending with Nikias Arndt (Giant-Shimano) winning the bunch sprint.
A day after his time loss on the Col du Béal van Garderen spoke to Cyclingnews about his form and revealed that he had picked up a small hip facture in a crash at the Tour of Romandie last month. Until now the injury had been kept under wraps.
“It was pretty obvious that yesterday wasn’t that good,” van Garderen told Cyclingews.
“I was optimistic coming in here but dealing with the injury that I had at Romandie, I had to take a couple of weeks where I was off the gas a bit. I posted some good training numbers coming in and thought I should be fine but it’s obvious that I need a bit more race rhythm and a bit more building before July.”
“I hadn’t told anyone this until yesterday but I told my teammates yesterday that when I returned to Aspen I had a scan and it showed a small fracture in my hip. After a couple of weeks there was no pain and I was able to ride. I increased the intensity a bit and I thought I’d done enough to be good here but if I look at it and I’m realistic this week needs to be a building week. By next weekend, I should be up there and closer to the leaders.”
Van Garderen has been in a similar position before in terms of form. In 2012, he finished the Dauphiné in 14th place before going on to claim the white jersey and fifth overall at the Tour de France. Rather than panic or claim that he can claw back major time in the next few stages of the Dauphiné, he says he will use the remainder of the event to race his way into form.
“There are plenty of times when people have been on the back foot at the Dauphiné and went really well at the Tour. That’s a bit like how my 2012 season went and if you look at Vincenzo Nibali in 2012, he was the same. A lot of people use this as a building week. All of what has happened might be a blessing in disguise. Now’s not the time to hit any panic buttons, it’s about staying the course, doing my thing, and staying realistic and optimistic. The best thing to do here is to go as deep as I can because that’s the best thing for me heading into the Tour.”
BMC Racing's sole leader
This year, van Garderen heads to the Tour de France as BMC’s sole leader for the overall classification. In 2012, he assumed that role but only after Cadel Evans cracked and in 2013 the pair unsuccessfully shared leadership.
This season BMC have streamlined leadership roles in several areas. At the Classics Greg Van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert were given distinct racing programmes, while Cadel Evans was handed the captaincy at the Giro d’Italia.
Although he is not currently at a level he would have chosen earlier in the year, van Garderen is still relishing and even enjoying the challenge of leadership at the Tour.
“The team have shown a lot of confidence in me and it’s been a lot less pressure as I get to field questions more related to the Tour than my relationship with Cadel and that’s been a breath of fresh air. The team have shown faith in me and that’s a huge honour to be leading a team that’s as big as BMC.”
The Dauphiné concludes on Sunday and van Garderen will then head to altitude for a final stint of training before the Tour de France start in Yorkshire.