Despite winning two time trials this year, both en route to his overall victories in the Tour of California and USA Pro Challenge, Tejay van Garderen gave up an opportunity to contest the individual test at the UCI Road World Championships in Florence in order to focus on the team time trial with BMC and the road race with the USA National Team.
Speaking to Cyclingnews in Montecatini Terme, van Garderen said, "I've worked hard for the road race – that was part of the reason I gave up my time trial spot. When you do the time trial, sometimes you get to the end and mentally unwind and it's hard to refocus for the road race. You can't put that same energy into the road race. I'm trying to do it differently.
"Realistically, I don't think I have the same chance of getting a medal the way Taylor [Phinney] does for a one-day time trial. I thought, OK, I'll put everything into the road race and the team time trial."
Van Garderen faced some stiff competition to earn selection for the BMC team time trial squad, with even Italian time trial champion Marco Pinotti left out, but he is confident he has the form and a plan to help overcome the devastating two-second loss to Omega Pharma-Quickstep in last year's event.
"It still burns," van Garderen said of the loss. Part of the time loss was due to a mistake van Garderen made by pushing too hard on the Cauberg and opening a gap to the rest of the team. "It's about staying calm on the whole course. You have to stay calm on the climb and you have to stay calm in the corners. When you get too nervous, that's when you and mess things up. That's basically what I did last year, I missed it up because I got too nervous."
This year, the team has employed Bobby Julich as an advisor for the team, and they have been working with performance director Dan Healy to come to Sunday's race in top form and as a cohesive unit.
"The big thing is going to be Bobby Julich on the radio, keeping us calm and keeping us together organised, so that we're one unit, one team and so that nobody does anything stupid. I think everyone on the team is on a level playing field. We're all hitting it."
Van Garderen joined the team after racing in the Canadian World Tour events in Montreal and Quebec, and said he hadn't shut down at all since winning the USA Pro Challenge.
"He jumped in and right away his 20min effort was top notch," Taylor Phinney added. Together with Michael Schär, Daniel Oss, Steve Cummings and Manuel Quinziato, the team has been training hard on the course’s lone obstacle, the Serravalle Pistoiese, which comes 7.3km into a 57.2km race.
"We did the climb five times yesterday," Phinney said. "It's early enough that no matter how fast we go we're not going to blow everybody up. Everything we've done this year has been very calculated. That comes from the performance side of things with Julich and Healy. We have a good plan for the first part of the race, and then the second part is about being smart and communicating."
When asked about his chances for the road race, van Garderen said that the USA team is "one of the strongest they've ever assembled".
Like BMC's TTT squad, cohesiveness is one of the aspects to the USA men's road race squad which may help it overcome somewhat inferior numbers.
"We have seven guys, we're two down on some other countries, but we have good climbers, good roulers like Taylor," and Vuelta a España winner Chris Horner, he added. Whether the team will work for Horner or someone else will be decided upon later in the week.
"We have a strong team, hopefully we can work together. Mike Sayers will be directing again. I feel good about my form and the work I've put in, so we should have a good shot. We're not the hot favorites, but we'll have a good shot."
Van Garderen left behind his hometown of Boulder which has been subjected to devastating floods, but luckily he and his wife and child have moved to Aspen, and his town home in downtown Boulder, which he is trying to sell, came through unscathed.