Tejay van Garderen is looking forward to his first season in the ProTour ranks with Columbia-HTC and believes he has a future in stage racing. Van Garderen rode for Rabobank’s continental team in 2009, finishing second overall in the Tour de l'Avenir. It was a highlight in a strong season and the American showed enough promise for Bob Stapleton to get his checkbook out and sign him.
After meeting up with his new teammates at their first training camp of the year, van Garderen is looking forward to making his Columbia debut.
“I went to the first camp in the Canary Islands. All the guys made me feel really welcome. There are lots of different personalities in the team and it was cool to find out where I fit in,” van Garderen told Cyclingnews.
One marked difference in the team is that unlike at Rabobank, van Garderen isn’t the only American or English-speaking rider, something he’s happy about.
“When I was at Rabobank I was lost for the first few months trying to learn Dutch and not understanding what was going on. I was the one American so everyone was really interested in me and asking me questions about what it’s like growing up in the States and if it’s like American Pie.
"At the Columbia camp guys were just having more normal conversations and weren’t intrigued about me being American, plus they’re a lot older.”
Van Garderen was also impressed with the scale of the team but pointed to their clean ethics and strict anti-doping stance as to why he signed with them. “It doesn’t matter who you are in the team, you all get treated the same. I think that’s why they’ve been so successful.”
“I’ve always had a strong stance against doping and I’ve always been afraid of taking anything, be it an Ibuprofen, or a cold medicine. I’m always scared there could be contamination and I’d rather not take anything. Having a team with the same mentality that I had and really wanting to see the sport change in a positive way…it’s great to be a part of.”
As for his racing programme, van Garderen will embark on a mix of one-day and stage races, aiming to peak at the Tour of California and then the Dauphine, while there is a possibility he will compete in the Vuelta. And it’s in the stages races that van Garderen believes he can truly shine.
“This season’s about getting my feet wet in big races, but I’m not going to sell myself short. I’ve proven what I can do in pro level races. If my job is to work for the team that’s what I’ll do and if there’s an opportunity to work for myself I’m going to go for it, because I think I’m capable of it. Really my main goal for the season is to prove to myself and the team that I can perform at that level.”
Van Garderen will ride the Volta ao Algarve, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Liège - Bastogne - Liège, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, Tour of California and the Dauphine before taking a break during the Tour de France. “The Tour of California is really important for the team and then the Dauphine is a big race for me. The big guys will be there preparing for the Tour so it will be a good test for me.”