Van Garderen signs for EF Education First-Drapac

'I think it was a necessary thing to do' says American

Tejay van Garderen will ride for EF Education First-Drapac in 2019, describing his impending switch from BMC Racing Team as "a necessary thing to do." The American has been a professional since 2010 and has twice finished fifth overall at the Tour de France, in 2012 and 2014.

Van Garderen has struggled to reach the same level in three-week races since he abandoned the 2015 Tour in the final week while lying third overall. The 29-year-old placed second overall at this year's Tour of California, and he began the Tour de France in support of BMC teammate Richie Porte, eventually placing 32nd overall in Paris. Van Garderen won the prologue of the Tour of Utah on Monday.

"I'm looking forward to being a part of 'America's' team," van Garderen said of his move to EF-Drapac. "I'm certainly not a young rider anymore, but I'm still way too young to be put out to pasture. I've had some good results, some ups and downs, and I'm still interested in exploring the capacity of what I have to give, however that translates. Whether it's helping a teammate or grabbing results for myself. Whether it's Grand Tours or one-week stage races. I still think there's a lot more I can offer."

After a stint with Rabobank's development squad, van Garderen stepped up to WorldTour level with HTC-Highroad in 2010, and as a neo-professional he placed third overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

Van Garderen moved to BMC in 2012, placing fifth at the Tour and winning the white jersey of best young rider. A year later, he won both the Tour of California and USA Pro Cycling Challenge, and then claimed another fifth place at the Tour in 2014. In 2015, van Garderen went toe-to-toe with Chris Froome (Team Sky) at the Dauphiné, where his second place overall raised expectations for the Tour. After performing solidly in the first two weeks of the Grande Boucle, he was forced out by illness in the third week.

In recent years, van Garderen found himself playing second fiddle to Porte at BMC. A tilt at the Giro d'Italia in 2017 proved a disappointment, though van Garderen showed resolve to claim a stage win in the final week before going on to place 10th overall at the Vuelta a España. 

Van Garderen's switch to EF-Drapac had been rumoured even before it was confirmed that BMC Racing Team would merge with Polish Pro Continental squad CCC-Sprandi in 2019.

"I think it was a necessary thing to do," van Garderen said. "I'm definitely going to look back on my years on BMC positively. I've accomplished a lot with that team. But at a certain point sometimes you just need a fresh environment, fresh faces, some new ideas."

Van Garderen will hope that his move to EF-Drapac can provide something a second act to his career.

"Especially now going into the post-30, or the second part of my career. You see that a lot — sometimes people come out hot early in their career, then have a bit of a lull, then they revive," van Garderen said. "You see that a lot with Slipstream riders. I think a fresh environment can spark a motivation that you might not have known was there."

EF-Drapac manager Jonathan Vaughters welcomed the arrival of van Garderen, who raced for his Team 5280 outfit as a junior in 2005 and 2006.

"This is a new chapter. Maybe even a new book," Vaughters said. "Tejay exhibited incredible potential in his younger years. He's been riding under very high pressure for years as he was pegged as America's next great cyclist. That's been tough billing to live up to, and it would have been for anyone.

"I worked with Tejay when he was a junior. I met him when he was 14 and had won the Cat. 3 race up Mt. Evans. I feel like he makes a lot of sense for this team. I think we can get the best out of him using an approach that gets him back to thinking about bike racing as fun as opposed to shouldering the weight of being the next great hope in American cycling."

If you've ever wanted to know what it feels like to be part of a top-level cycling team, and to be on the ground, inside the barriers, at the Tour de France, then RUNNING WITH WOLVES will take you there. It is available to rent for $3.99 USD or buy for $6.99 USD.

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