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Van Garderen: Ready for the fight at Vuelta debut

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Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia)

Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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American Tejay Van Garderen before the 2009 World Championships

American Tejay Van Garderen before the 2009 World Championships
(Image credit: Gregor Brown)
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The final overall podium: Alberto Contador (Astana) in second, Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack) in first and Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia)

The final overall podium: Alberto Contador (Astana) in second, Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack) in first and Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia)
(Image credit: Sirotti)

It’s been an exciting season so far. Full of highs and lows, but luckily in my case it’s been mostly highs. I feel like I’ve aged a lot over these past eight months. Everything used to be so easy for me, living in a cycling house in Belgium where everything was taken care of for me, or with family in Holland where they to would take care of everything for me.

Now my situation is different and I’ve had to grow up a lot. I found my own apartment in Lucca, Italy, bought my own furniture (I have a love hate relationship with Ikea, mostly hate), and getting internet set up (which still actually doesn't work). All in a foreign country and in a language I don't speak. I remember being stressed out, barely having time to train some days, cold at night because we couldn't figure out how to turn on the heat/hot water, and taking cold showers after a riding in zero degree temperatures. I remember wanting to go home. Luckily my girlfriend was a trooper and helped me with everything. And we had some friends in town that helped us learn the system.

I had a lot of mixed reactions from both riders and staff over my participation in the Spanish Tour. First of all there was a ton of rider who wanted to race, both for GC and for Worlds prep. So I was up against some heavy hitters for a slot. Then is was the fact that I'm a neo-pro and the fear that three weeks of racing is just too much for my 22-year-old body to handle. This was the position taken by Michel Rogers, who told me to wait until next year, while other riders from the team were telling me to "just go for it". I took all the advice to heart, but I knew that if given the chance there was no way I would turn it down.

As a bike racers we spend most of the year in Europe but rarely get the chance to do the tourist thing, so we were taking full advantage in the short time we had. Hopefully it opened my sister’s eyes a bit to the world beyond that of Fort Collins, Colorado.

It’s a hard thing to do after a break, having the taste and smell of off-season pleasure in the air, but given the chance to race a grandy was motivation enough. We had a great time riding together in the Dolomites. I'm lucky to have a super talented (two-time national champion) girlfriend, so we are able to do a lot of rides together.

It was a good morale boost and I placed fourth, picking up the best young rider’s jersey. Then I had a few one day races in Italy just to sharpen up the form.

Now here in Sevilla, I’m just waiting until Saturday, or Sunday depending what time out team starts (first team off at 10pm). I wish I could say with all confidence that I'm ready to go, but I have no idea what it really takes, having never done one these before. But as I'm sure you guys can tell by reading this, I'm not a guy lacking in self-confidence and I will just go ahead and say it: I'M READY!!!

However the team is being great in giving me a 'free roll' so I don't have to do too much work on the flat stages for the sprint, so I want to honor that by giving it a good honest fight.