The BMC Racing rider is looking to win the race himself and comes in after winning a stage in the Tour de Suisse. He will co-lead the BMC squad alongside Richie Porte, with the team looking to compete on a number of fronts.
It’s a contrast to Team Sky and their understandably dialled focus on defending Froome’s crown. The British team arrive at the Tour with an unquestionably strong team to support Froome’s ambitions with Mikel Landa, Geraint Thomas and Wout Poels among the support crew.
“Sometimes it can be a blessing and sometimes it can be a curse,” van Garderen said of Team Sky’s line-up.
“They bring such a strong line-up and the defending champion so everything is on them. They’re the ones that need to control, set the pace, dictate the tactics and put their noses in the wind. That’s going to cost them energy.”
Van Garderen also pointed to the race route, and the supremely difficult third week in the mountains. The race could conceivably come down to the final climb of stage 20.
“Everything in this Tour points to it coming down the third week. They have a strong line up, but once you get into the third week are they going to be burnt by then?
“They have pretty much all the pressure on their shoulders. They’ve won three Tours in the past four years so they’ve shown that they can handle it but it’s still a big ask. Froome is Froome and he’s shown good form at the Dauphiné but he’s also shown that he’s beatable.”
How van Garderen can fare in this year’s Tour de France is somewhat unpredictable. He has finished fifth on two occasions but last year he abandoned the race due to illness. This year he changed his race programme, swapping the Dauphiné out for the Tour de Suisse, and it’s a change he thinks was the right call.
“Suisse was always going to be a question mark because I hadn’t raced for six weeks and had just been training. I need that race fitness in order to get back into the swing of things. Seeing how hard it was, that gave me that last little bump that I needed.
“I’d reached my race weight by Suisse so now I’ve just been trying to sustain it and recover. I feel fresher and fitter than I ever have coming into the Tour.”
Not even the brutal weather riders were forced to endure in Switzerland put the American off as he enjoyed a more relaxed environment.
“I don’t regret doing the Tour de Suisse. That sounds crazy given the weather that we’ve had but in the end I didn’t crash and I didn’t get sick. I stayed healthy and got a good bump in fitness. I think it was the perfect decision. It also gave me a bit more freedom because if you come from the recon to the Dauphiné to another camp to the Tour, I needed a bit more space to do my own thing. I’ve spent a good amount of time in the team but also been able to forge in the way I like things.
“It was certainly more low-key in terms of media stress. The Dauphiné is basically like tacking on another week to the Tour de France, while Suisse is just another bike race. It made me more relaxed.”
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