Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia) heads into the final three stages of the Tour of Turkey lying second overall, 16 seconds behind Giovanni Visconti (ISD-Neri). The American finished second in the opening prologue as well as in Wednesday's tough uphill finish. Although dislodging Visconti will be a hard achievement with three relatively flat stages to come, Van Garderen has continued his excellent start to his first year in the pro ranks.
"I'm always realistic about what I can and can't do," Van Garderen told Cyclingnews from his post-race ice bath after stage five.
"I'm certainly happy with how things are going this season but I wouldn't say I'm surprised. I think I've always known that this is what I'm capable of, it was just a matter of things falling into place and having a bit of luck at the right time. I have a lot of confidence in my coach and my training. I'm certainly over the moon with how the season has been going but I'm not overly surprised because I've shown before that I was capable."
This year's Vuelta ao Algarve was a breakthrough race for Van Garderen. He finished in the top ten overall and climbed with Levi Leipheimer during the toughest mountain stage. However, Van Garderen's biggest aim for season remains the Amgen Tour of California.
His role for the race is open to interpretation. With Michael Rogers going for the overall and Mark Cavendish aiming for the sprints Van Garderen could be domestique, but while he's willing to work for others, he believes he could place well in the overall too.
"My role for that race? It's kind of open. We're bringing Michael and he'll be our best bet for GC. Then, Cavendish is there so I'll probably need to work in the sprints, but if there are breaks going I can jump in them. And if I'm helping out Rogers on the climbs I can maybe climb pretty high on GC myself. I wouldn't say I'd be a total domestique but I'm prepared to work for the team and to get the results as they come. If I find that that I'm sitting pretty well going into the time trial I'm not going to soft pedal."
Before the Amgen Tour of California, Van Garderen will mix it with the best Classics riders in the world at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. While most neo-pros would be nervous about the race, Van Garderen simply sees it as another stepping stone in his career as he learns the ropes.
"Being the young guy, I think if I can do the distance and finish it that will be a big achievement on it's own, but I'll do whatever I can for the team. I'll do what I can for them and if I make it to the end that will be good."
HTC has put a lot of faith in younger riders in the past and Van Garderen is part of a new crop of talented riders starting to reap the benefits of racing on a team that prides itself on developing riders.
"I'm certainly honoured that they're putting faith in me, but it's a team full of young guys that they want to develop and take forward, so a lot of the guys get the chance to do a good programme."