Van Garderen has endured a difficult few years as a GC rider after two top-five performances at the Tour de France earlier in his career. He faded in the Giro d'Italia in 2017 despite winning a stage, then claimed 10th at the Vuelta a Espana, but will not target the overall classification in a Grand Tour in 2018.
"I'll tell you this right now, Tejay will win a WorldTour stage race before we get to the Tour de France. He will. He's got a responsibility to live up to that position. I think we're on a new track to fix things," Ochowicz told Cyclingnews at BMC Racing's recent training camp in Calpe, Spain.
With Porte set to lead BMC at the Tour de France and Rohan Dennis provided with an opportunity at the Giro d'Italia, van Garderen finds himself facing a demotion. That said, the American will target a number of week-long stage races in the first half of the season before heading to the Tour and at 29, and in a contract year, he knows that this could be final chance to prove his worth at the team.
The American is certainly making sacrifices. He and his young family are set to pack up their home in the US and make Spain their permanent abode. The move, Ochowicz thinks, will help the rider focus and keep him on track during the year.
"He's in the perfect place. I think you're going to see more from Tejay in 2018 than you've seen in his career so far. This is going to be his year," Ochowicz told Cyclingnews.
Despite Ochowicz's confidence, the truth is that the media and fans have heard this record before. Despite those two top-five rides at the Tour in 2012 and 2014, the growing notion the last few years is that van Garderen is not a natural three-week rider and that concentrating on shorter races would provide a stronger return in terms of results.
"You've heard that before, I'll admit that, but this is based on my interpretation of dealing with him during the off-season. I've looked at his commitments and he's unwinding his home lifestyle and he's going to be all-in in Girona. That means no big trips back and forth. For an athlete that's a big deal," argued Ochowicz.
Riding for Richie
If the secret to tapping into van Garderen's form was as simple as changing his zip code then the obvious question is why it has taken BMC so long to address the issue.
"I wish it had been [addressed] but it hadn't. It's resolved now and I think that's a huge change in his mental commitment and his physical ability to concentrate here in Europe. When a rider decides that this is their home and their family is behind it one hundred per cent then it makes a huge difference."
Whatever the future holds, Ochowicz is certain that van Garderen will fulfill his role as a loyal super domestique at the Tour de France. BMC Racing were in the market for a proven climber for 2018 but having failed to land their, meaning target van Garderen will provide needed cover in the mountains.
While there was a degree of tension between the American and Porte heading into and at the Tour in 2016, Ochowicz believes that the two will combine well together in 2018.
"There was a bit more tension in that space. Now Tejay is used to racing with Richie and he's maybe accepted the fact that Richie has a better chance for the overall. Tejay is still one of ten or twelve riders who can be there at the end on the climbs. You may not believe but I do and he can be there to help Richie.
"We lost the Dauphine because Richie didn't have another guy there to help him at the end of the race. If we had one more guy then we would have won the race.
"We want to win the Tour de France. That means we need to go all in. Why would I sign another climber when I've got Tejay? We've not demoted him, we've just re-positioned him. In one sense it's a demotion but it also frees him up. The season isn't just the Tour and we've all these (races) and Tejay and Richie are going to be vying for those races."
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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