Aspen, Colorado resident Tejay van Garderen has been enjoying preparing to defend his title in the USA Pro Challenge, which begins tomorrow a quick bike ride away from his home, and is hoping to show good form after a much-needed break following the Tour de France.
The American finished fifth overall in the Tour de France last month, and although he followed that up with the Clasica San Sebastian a week later, he said his time in Spain was spent more time relaxing with his wife than preparing for the race.
"I need that mentally, to decompress," he said. He flew back to the USA after the one-day race, and spent the past two weeks doing more focused training. "I feel like myself again. I fell like I have good form and prepared well."
Van Garderen has also been enjoying showing off his adopted home to his BMC Racing teammates. "It's pretty cool starting in my hometown. This morning we did a training lap of the [stage 1 Aspen] circuit, and we rolled up to my house, and my wife Jessica had lunch for us."
After a fast and furious starting stage in Aspen, only 98km in length, the second stage to Crested Butte tackles both McClure Pass and Kebler Pass, with a 20-mile section in between containing unpaved roads. The decisive climbing stage comes the very next day with the big summit finish at Monarch Mountain, and the circuit race in Colorado Springs, the next stage to Breckenridge, the Vail time trial, and the final stage from Boulder to Denver will all have their own challenges.
"There are some obvious GC days, the time trial and mountain finishes, but all the stages are important," he said. "After racing in Colorado you realize that you don't know what's going to happen. On paper it looked like the stage into Breckenridge last year didn't look like much, but [Peter] Sagan attacked and I followed and it made a big difference in the GC. The 'flat' stage of this race [Colorado Springs] goes four times around the Garden of the Gods." The Colorado Springs stage includes climbs tipping up to 17 per cent grades.
Van Garderen has raced each edition of the USA Pro Challenge, and has never finished the race off the podium. He came third in the inaugural year in 2011, moved up one spot to second in 2012, and finally took home the overall victory last year.
"Last year's win was incredible. The two previous years I was so close and lost by small margins. To finally get that win was really something special for me."