If America needed further proof that a new generation of riders had arrived then it was cemented with Tejay van Garderen's display in the Tour de France prologue. After Taylor Phinney won the prologue at the Giro in May the BMC all-rounder finished fourth, 10 seconds behind Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) in Liege, doing enough to sneak into the white jersey.
The 23-year-old is the only American in the Tour under the age of 28, and with compatriots Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie all over 30, Van Garderen's display was all the more important.
"I gave it my all and I’m very happy with my performance. Hopefully my form is pretty good. I prepared well for this and I just hope it means I'm going to be strong support for Cadel come later in the Tour. [The white jersey] is not something that's a team goal. We came here with one goal and that's to get Cadel on the top step of the podium in Paris, but anything can happen," Van Garderen said.
As he made his way to the Tour podium, he added: "It's going to be incredible. I've got chills waiting to go up there and get it. I've had this white jersey in mind for a while because normally I go pretty well in prologues so I gave it a go and now I'm just so excited."
Van Garderen has already tasted Tour success, having pulled on the King of the Mountains jersey during last year's race, the first American to ever wear the jersey [Greg LeMond held the jersey in his career but wore yellow during that spell – ed.] However, Van Garderen's biggest challenge lies ahead, and defending the white jersey will become irrelevant in the coming days as the battle for yellow intensifies. Van Garderen is Evans' most talented climbing support on the BMC team, and his fitness and stamina will be crucial in Evans's title defence.
During yesterday's pre-race press conference, BMC toyed with the option of holding the American rider back in time trials in order to save his legs for the mountains that lie ahead.
"To be honest the team has great spirit, the guys are super relaxed and having a bunch of fun. Andy Rihs and Jim Ochowicz were having a barbecue last night and cracking open a few bottles of wine. I mean, yeah, the riders we're pretty serious but we have a joke around the table. During the team meeting, Cadel was saying 'Guys, don't stress - winning the Tour is fun we had fun doing it last year and we'll have fun doing it this year.’
"I'm learning a lot from Cadel and being a GC-style rider myself, I hope to learn a lot from him and help him and then hopefully in a few years time he can pass the torch."
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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