Tejay van Garderen (BMC) heads into the Alpine stages of the Tour de France in seventh place and ready to fight with his GC rivals for a place on the podium and possibly even the yellow jersey if Vincenzo Nibali falters.
He has managed to survive the first half of the Tour de France, overcome the injuries of his own crashes and avoided the crashes that have taken Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and fellow American Andrew Talansky out of the race.
Van Garderen finished stage 12 to Saint-Étienne safely in the front group with several teammates, after saving as much energy as possible for the upcoming Alpine stage 13 and stage 14, the first long climbs of this year's Tour de France. With Tony Gallopin losing time, van Garderen moved up to sixth overall, 3:56 behind Nibali.
The BMC sporting manager Allan Peiper has played a key strategic role in helping van Garderen plan his season around the Tour de France. He directed van Garderen towards the BMC bus after the stage.
Peiper told Cyclingnews that he was confident that van Garderen was ready for the Alps.
"I think Tejay got a boost on the first mountain finish at La Planche des Belles Filles. He was wondering where it was a little bit after four crashes but he got some confidence that day and now he looks as good as I've ever seen him," Peiper said.
The BMC team has a calm and focused air with the experienced staff working to create an ideal environment for van Garderen to perform at is very best. He has full support from his teammates, with fellow American Peter Stetina expected to play a key role in the mountains protecting and helping van Garderen.
"I like how I'm feeling and I like where I'm sitting. I've just got to do my thing," van Garderen said after the stage.
He insisted he did not feel any pressure as the Alps loomed on the French horizon. "No. I'm just here to do the best I can, have the team do the best they can, and see where we end up. I think I'm definitely ready for it," he said.
"That's the goal but I'm taking it step-by-step and staying calm. I think we're going to start to see a few people crack and hopefully, I'm not one of them."
Van Garderen is the best placed US rider in the Tour de France, with Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) further back in sixteenth place.
Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) was forced to retire from the race after bravely fighting to the finish of stage 11. Van Garderen sent him his best wishes.
"I feel bad for him. He obviously had some good form, as we saw at the Dauphiné, so it's sad to see a compatriot out of the Tour," he said before turning his thoughts to the Alps and his own challenges for a place on the Tour de France podium.
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