There was an element of relief for Tejay van Garderen at the end of stage 4 of the Tour de France after making it through with his general classification hopes still intact. The BMC rider arrived at the finish line in Cambrai with the other favourites, three seconds down on stage winner Tony Martin, and sits just 25 seconds behind the German in the general classification.
With BMC’s favoured team time trial coming this Sunday and many of the big contenders such as Movistar's Nairo Quintana and Tinkoff-Saxo's Alberto Contador behind him, van Garderen is in a strong position. Just four days into the race, though, the American remains cautious.
“It’s still really early but I’m definitely happy to have avoided all of the pitfalls so far, but we still have a long first week ahead of us and two more weeks after that. We’ve just got to not get too high and not get too low and just stay the course,” he explained.
“I definitely feel more confident and I feel like my preparation has gone better. I’m just looking forward to the rest of the race.”
The result is in stark contrast with his last trip to the cobbles during stage 5 of last year’s Tour de France where he was one of the many riders to crash, and he lost 2:28 in the overall standings. It would be the first of several crashes in the opening week for van Garderen.
Following the pavé stage in 2014, van Garderen spoke out about their inclusion in the race. While he fared much better this time around, his feelings towards them have not really changed. “I guess it all depends on how the day goes and a lot of it’s kind of luck,” he said. “I still kind of feel more the same way as I did last year but I’m happy that I got through this stage unharmed.”
BMC had three riders in the main group behind Martin, including Manuel Quinziato and Greg van Avermaet, who went on to finish fourth. When many of the other favourites found themselves isolated, BMC were one of the best represented throughout and ensured that van Garderen was out of trouble at all times.
Van Garderen heaped praise on the men that brought him to the finish. “My team was incredible. They sat in the wind on the front, they’re just some hard-hitting head bangers and they just paved the way for me all day. I barely had to lift a finger.”
One of those riders that was there for van Garderen was Daniel Oss, who had been involved in the mass crash that saw the race halted on stage 3. The Italian had to have blood wiped from his eyes during the hiatus, and he raced today with a bandage on his left cheek but still did huge amounts of work for his leader.
“These are tough guys, they’d ride through a brick wall,” said van Garderen. “It was inspiring but not at all surprising because I knew that he was going to be just fine.”