EF Education-Nippo announced Friday that Tejay van Garderen has signed a contract to become a team sports director beginning in 2022. The American, who retired from professional cycling in June, will shadow the team to learn more about his new role at the Vuelta a España.
"At the Giro [d'Italia], I spoke to Matti Breschel and he was the one telling me, 'If opportunities come, say yes. You might think you want to take a year off and figure things out but opportunities don’t come very often.'" Van Garderen said in a team statement.
"It all happened really fast. I almost still can’t believe I’m not a bike racer anymore but I’m really excited with the direction everything’s taken."
Van Garderen retired from professional cycling following the USA Cycling Pro Road Championships is June. In a post published on the EF Education-Nippo website that month, van Garderen said that he was retiring after feeling that he didn't have the same effectiveness as a rider as he did in the past.
"When you're a bike racer, you think, 'Once I’m done racing I’m just going to put the sport behind me' and start the next chapter. But when I was facing my own cycling mortality, I realized I’m still not done with the sport," van Garderen said.
"I want to stay involved, I want to stay connected, I want to be with the guys and help in any way I can and if I can’t help with my legs anymore, then I want to help with my mind and my experience. Being a director, that’s the best way to do it."
Van Garderen spent his junior years with Jonathan Vaughters' 5280 Magazine. He opened a 14-year pro career having spent two seasons with Rabobank (2008 and 2009) and then two seasons with HTC-HighRoad (2010 and 2011). He then joined BMC where he stayed for seven seasons before joining the EF Education programme in 2019.
“It’s really special that I can be a DS for this team in particular. The friends I was able to make, the people I was able to work with these past few years, and my relationship with this organization dates back to when I was a junior on 5280 Magazine and I was teammates with Alex Howes when we were 17 years old. I’m really honored they’ve given me this opportunity.”
Van Garderen brings over a decade of WorldTour experience to the team as a director in 2022. His career achievements include overall wins at the USA Pro Challenge and the Amgen Tour of California, as well as stage wins at the Giro d’Italia, Tour de Suisse, and the Volta a Catalunya. He was also twice second overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné and twice fifth overall at the Tour de France.
He joins EF Education-Nippo's squad at the Vuelta a España to learn more about directing the team by shadowing the team's current sports directors, mechanics and soigneurs, which was at the suggestion of senior sport director Charly Wegelius.
“If I were headed to the Vuelta as a rider, I wouldn’t be nervous because I’d know what to do. As a DS, the thought of standing on the bus looking at the guys looking up at me as opposed to being with the guys looking up at the DS, I don’t know, it’s going to be weird," van Garderen said.
"I just thought it made so much sense. Because when you’re at a race, you’re in charge of everyone, riders and staff included. It can teach me to be more appreciative when I do ask someone to go above and beyond. Then I know who to buy the beer for at the end of the day.
"I’m definitely prepared for all the jokes that are going to come from my former teammates. ‘Oh you got a clipboard now?’ I’m going to get grilled for sure."
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