During the build-up towards the Tour de France all team managers have to make hard decisions when they're making their selection for the race. At the Garmin-Cervélo team, the last spot ended up being a tie between Paris-Roubaix winner Johan Vansummeren and little-known rider Ramunas Navardauskas.
The Lithuanian national champion showed great potential and good form in his first professional season, especially in the Ster ZLM Tour in which he finished third. In the end it was Navardauskas who made the selection, and after three days of racing we're sure that manager Jonathan Vaughters has no regrets at all about his decision.
"It's amazing. It's so nice. It feels like I don't deserve this," Navardauskas said. "It's so amazing to be with these guys. You come here as the last guy in the team so I do all I can to help the guys."
His best efforts proved quite fruitful in the past two days, as he helped deliver the team to the victory in Sunday's team time trial - a feat which also netted the yellow jersey for Thor Hushovd.
On stage 3, Navardauskas and David Zabriskie were solely responsible for keeping tabs on the five-rider breakaway: the pair set tempo for some 140km before any the teams pitched in. That allowed his team to have six fresh riders to help set up Tyler Farrar for his first Tour de France sprint victory.
"David Zabriskie helped me today and worked much more than me I think. It allowed me to rest a bit and save some energy," the 23-year-old said. After all his work during the stage Navardauskas even managed to lend a hand in the build-up to the sprint as well. "I had some extra power to do this, to make it a good sprint together with Tyler and Hushovd. I'm trying to do my best and prove myself, trying not to disappoint the others."
We're confident that the last thing on Vaughters' mind right now is disappointment with the rider who turned heads with a win in the U23 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year.
What the future holds for this promising young rider, even he does not know. "I still haven't found myself. It's for sure I'm not a climber. I'm not the best time-trialist either. I try to be a good worker. Who I'm going to be? We'll see. I'm not too bad in the short climbs although I'm not the best.
"In terms of power I aim to be like Philippe Gilbert, he's my favourite rider. Of course, if I want to be a sprinter there's Thor and Tyler. They have a good character and are very good riders," Navardauskas said.
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