Tejay van Garderen (BMC) has had a tough build up to this year’s Tour de France. The American fractured his hip during the prologue of the Tour de Romandie at the end of April. The injury had a knock-on effect on his training, which, in turn, impacted on his form at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Van Garderen will head the nine-man BMC squad at this year’s Tour de France. After the roller coaster ride leading into the start in Yorkshire, he is happy to have made it and is realistic about his chances at the three-week race. “There’s some nerves and excitement, a bit of confidence and also some modesty,” he said at the pre-race press conference in Leeds on Thursday.
“I’m not expecting to ride out of my skin and drop Chris Froome on the first mountain. If you look at the progression from last year, I don’t expect any miracles. If I can stay consistent, calm and to just ride within myself and then I think I will ride really high into Paris.”
This year will be the American's first tilt at the Tour de France as the sole team leader. In the past he has had to share the duty with the more experienced, 2011 Tour de France winner, Cadel Evans. However, the team cut the race completely from Evans's schedule. Van Garderen now has an opportunity to shoulder the weight of the team’s ambitions.
After underperforming last season, the pressure is on for tthe 25-year-old to pull something out of the bag. Van Garderen isn’t feeling the heat, despite his struggles over the past couple of months, “Pressure is just a made up thing. When it comes down to the last couple of kilometers on a summit finish, it’s about if you have the legs or you don’t have the legs. As far as pressure goes, there’s not any more or less,” he said with a note of defiance.
Van Garderen finished fifth in the 2012 Tour de France, two places ahead of his leader Evans, and stood on the podium as the winner of the young riders’ classification. After his performance, many expected that he would be a genuine contender last season, but he failed to impress and finished in 45th.
Earlier this season, BMC’s sporting manager Allan Peiper said that his target for the American would be another fifth place. Van Garderen says that there is more to his result this year than just a number, but he admits that it would be great to replicate the result of two years ago,
“I’m not going to name what place on GC would make me happy. I just want to prove to myself and to the team just that I can stack up in three weeks of racing and that I am a grad tour rider,” he explained. “I want to explore the possibilities, do my best and see where I end up.
“Even if we’re not going into the race as favourites this is also a stepping stone for other years. If I can have a good showing this year then we can tweak things, because one year I’m hoping that I can win the Tour de France.”