Two months ago, Brent Bookwalter created a surprise by coming second to Bradley Wiggins in the prologue of the Giro d’Italia. Can the rookie from BMC do it again?
"I have no idea to be honest," he told Cyclingnews at a BMC press meeting in the Netherlands. "After riding the Giro in May, here I am now at the Tour de France. It’s two large distinctions. Both prologues are 8 to 9km efforts on TT bikes. I guess at the Tour there are better time triallists than at the Giro, but I still have a lot of confidence and hope."
Bookwalter will be the tenth rider to start at 4.24pm local time. As none of the first nine are specialists, he’ll very likely lead the Tour de France once he crosses the finishing line, but whether he keeps this position for three hours until top guns like Fabian Cancellara ride or for less than one minute, that remains to be seen. German time trial champion Tony Martin will start at 4.25pm.
Both BMC and HTC-Columbia teams have chosen to have one of their prologue riders start early in case of a change of weather conditions. Rain is forecasted to move in during the race, peaking for the late starters.
Bookwalter was adamant that he didn’t get the call for the Tour only because of his capacities of riding fast in the prologue. "It’s a complete body work that has been taken in consideration by [BMC directeur sportif] John [Lelangue]," said assistant DS Mike Sayers who personally looks after the progression of Bookwalter in the American Pro Continental outfit. "It wasn’t just his Giro result that brought him into the Tour team. He has come in one piece from an extremely hard Giro and he has passed his post-Giro hangover."
"I haven’t done a lot since the end of the Giro," Bookwalter said. "I recovered physically and I’ve refreshed my mind in Georgia with my girlfriend. I rode my mountain bike a little bit. I didn’t anticipate riding the Tour de France. We talked about it two weeks ago and I knew about my final selection one week ago yesterday.
"I still feel there are a lot of unknowns about this race. I feel a lot of excitement. I don’t like to say fear but I’m a little anxious. At the Giro I was amazed to realize how my body and my mind can overcome three weeks of racing, not only myself but other guys, too. You realize the game is more about the mind. I took that from the Giro to build more confidence."
According to Sayers, Bookwalter naturally has the physical capacities and the cadence of a champion but confidence is still his weak point.
"I don’t know how far I can go in cycling," Bookwalter said. "After I graduated from school, I thought maybe I could be a pro cyclist in the US. Then I thought maybe I could go to Europe. And now I’m at the Tour de France. Each year I tend to progress to a new level. I’m now at a point I’d like to make a career out of it and ride the Tour and the Giro as long as I can and as long as I enjoy it."
"Brent is part of the future of the team," wished Sayers who is also discovering the Tour de France in his new role of directeur sportif after racing for many seasons including one in Europe with Mercury in 2001.