After a successful debut season in the professional ranks Tejay Van Garderen (HTC Columbia) is setting his sights on a top ten finish in a grand tour in 2011. The American has yet to finalise his exact racing programme with his team but he has provisionally pointed towards the super-hard Giro d’Italia as the battle ground for his lofty ambitions.
“I’ve got a schedule of all the races that the team will be doing. I don’t think it will be confirmed until the first camp in December but my coach and I have made a rough outline of what I’d like to do,” Van Garderen told Cyclingnews.
In 2010 Van Garderen targeted a top 15 place in the Vuelta and looked on course succeed before tiring in the final week. However with a year’s solid racing in his legs and what he hopes will be a strong pre-season, the 22-year-old is undaunted about taking on what many regard as one of the hardest Giri in recent years.
“It’s definitely a hard route. No grand tour is easy but the Giro is renowned for having the most brutal courses. It’s nerve-wracking to see that but it doesn’t play too much into my selection for which races I want to do.”
“I just see it as an obvious stepping stone from doing the Vuelta, which is the more relaxed grand tour and then moving to the Giro which is harder. Maybe after that I can do the Tour de France.”
A possible shot at the Giro would mean missing out on the Amgen Tour of California, a race Van Garderen took part in this year and one to which HTC has tended to send its strongest team. However should Van Garderen get his wish and be allowed to skip California, he will aim to take part in another of the United States’ flagship races, the Tour of Colorado.
“It’s a tricky one to plan out because you’ve got the Tour of California and that conflicts with Giro, while you’ve got the Tour of Colorado in August and that conflicts with the Vuelta.”
“But my I’d say my aspirations are higher for next year. I went into the Vuelta thinking that I wasn’t going to put pressure on myself but that I wasn’t going to give anything away either. I was just going to ride as hard as I can.”
“Next year in the Giro I’m going to be really aiming for the top ten. It’ll be a disappointment if it doesn’t happen.”
Despite his relaxed demeanour Van Garderen will have to help shoulder more responsibility when it comes to stage racing during next year. The loss of Michael Rogers, the team’s most experienced GC rider, means that the likes of Van Garderen, Peter Velits and Tony Martin will have more chances. For Van Garderen, the loss of Rogers is a blow after the two roomed together on several occasions in 2010.
“It’s sad to lose Michael. Out of all the guys he’s the one I’m going to miss the most. I roomed with him a lot and I learnt a lot from him. He was a good mentor and we had similar strengths,” Van Garderen said.
“However I don’t think it’s really going to bring us down in terms of GC. There’s Peter Velits, myself, Tony Martin and Kanstantsin Siutsou so we still have plenty of guys to field for a GC team.”
“I’m not going to try and fill a void left by Michael. I just need to focus on my own progression. You can learn a lot from other riders but sometimes you just need to focus on yourself and not think about being someone else. That can put too much pressure on you.”