Tejay van Garderen (BMC) is set to open his 2016 account in Spain this weekend at the Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia and the Clásica de Almería. The Spanish one-day races will be his first since breaking his shoulder at the Vuelta a España last August.
Van Garderen has begun his past three seasons outside of Europe – at the Tour de San Luis and more recently the Tour of Oman, where he has finished second over the last two years. This time, however, the American has opted to ease himself into his return to racing by remaining in Europe.
"The decision to start the season in Spain is due to a number of reasons. I've opened the two previous seasons with the Tour of Oman, but we felt it was a good idea to stay in Europe, in the same time zone, with a better climate and eliminate the travel involved. These races are competitive and will really set my season up well,” van Garderen said.
Van Garderen has been out of action for six months following the crash on stage 8 of the Vuelta, an incident that saw Lotto-Soudal rider Kris Boeckmans put into an induced coma. Van Garderen will be keen to put the disappointments of last season behind him, and he is once again be targeting the Tour de France in July. He had looked set for a podium finish last year until illness forced him out in the final week.
Joining Van Garderen in making their season debuts will be Brent Bookwalter, Damiano Caruso and Darwin Atapuma. Philippe Gilbert, Ben Hermans and Samuel Sanchez, who all rode the Dubai Tour last week, will complete the seven-man team.
"They're great races to start the season with. We're sending a solid GC team to the two races so that they can get a couple of good race days in their legs before continuing on to Ruta del Sol. Really, anyone from the team has a shot in Murcia, and then Almeria is traditionally a sprinters' race,” said BMC directeur sportif Jackson Stewart.
Van Garderen's first stage race will be the the Ruta del Sol, which begins on February 17.