By the time Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) made it to the end of the procession of journalists waiting for him at the teams’ presentation at the Tour de France on Thursday all of his teammates had already left, but such is the demand for the American’s time before this year’s race it’s little wonder that he’s being talked up as a podium contender.
A fine second place in the Criterium du Dauphine last month does no harm but neither does van Garderen’s natural enthusiasm to deliver headline-ready copy when he’s on song, both on the road and in front of a microphone.
Fifth last year in race that saw a number of favourites crash and abandon, van Garderen has already stated that the podium is his primary target for 2015, but one could be forgiven for wondering if a repeat of last year’s result would appease his ambitions.
“No I wouldn’t,” was his measured response when asked if he would take fifth in Paris right now, even before a single pedal stroke had been turned in anger.
“If I ride the absolute perfect race and I end up fifth, I’ll have to be happy with that but I’m aiming for at least two spots higher.”
That ‘at least’ is certainly a measure of van Garderen’s ambitions, and whether they’re followed through or not there’s no doubting that the former white jersey winner is setting his stall out and talking a good game.
“I feel great. This is the best I’ve ever felt. The Dauphine was good and I took a lot of confidence out of that. Since then I’ve spent a bit of time at altitude, a bit of time at my base in Nice and every workout and training ride has given me really good sensations. I’m here with the team and we’re gelling well and staying relaxed. I’m looking forward to getting it started.”
With such a demanding first half of the race, van Gaderen’s search for the perfect race must begin on Saturday with the opening time trial in Utrecht. It’s a discipline in which the American should shine and it provides an opportunity to gain time on a number of rivals before sterner tests must be faced.
“I just want to ride a perfect race. That’s not to lose on any pitfall that may arise. Being a specialist in the time trial, Saturday is a chance to gain. The distance isn’t perfect for me but it’s longer than a prologue so that’s an opportunity.”
If van Garderen’s GC aspirations are to be fulfilled, he must of course eliminate his Grand Tour bad day, a feature that ruined his podium chances last year.
“We have to monitor a lot of things and that’s tricky. We need to keep an eye on how much to train, how much to eat and how much to rest. It’s about managing the obligations and not forgetting the little things that can trip you up.”