Climbing up the cycling ranks
Van Garderen, 24, seeking first stage-race crown
Published: Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 11:57 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 11:57 a.m.
Tejay van Garderen is no different than any professional cyclist. He welcomes the competitive obstacles inherent in the sport — steep mountain climbs, high-speed descents and pedaling for hours on windy, exposed country roads.
• 1st, Stage 2, USA Pro Challenge
• 1st, best young rider classification, Tour de France
• 1st, best young rider classification, Paris-Nice
• 2nd, TTT, UCI Road World Championships
• 2nd overall, USA Pro Challenge
• 2nd overall, Volta ao Algarve
• 2nd, prologue, Tour de Suisse
• 3rd overall, USA Pro Cycling Challenge
• 1st, Stage 1, TTT, Vuelta a España
• 2nd overall, Presidential Tour of Turkey
• 2nd, Stages 1 and 4, Presidential Tour of Turkey
• 3rd overall, Critérium du Dauphiné
But van Garderen
With other accomplished cyclists in their mid-20s — Taylor Phinney, Peter Stetina and Andrew Talansky, among others — van Garderen is in the awkward spotlight of pedaling to restore the reputation of a sport tarnished by the rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs.
“I’d say we just keep doing what we are doing and hopefully the fans respond to that,” said 24-year-old van Garderen, who rides for Santa Rosa-based BMC and is a favorite in the Tour of California. “Other than that, I really can’t say what more we could do other than what we are already doing. And that is getting results and doing it in an honest way.”
Drug use in cycling isn’t new. But
Nearly a dozen of Armstrong’s former teammates, several of whom will join van Garderen in the Tour of California
A fourth-year pro, van Garderen finished fifth and fourth overall in the Tour of California the past two years. His role as favorite this year is based on his breakthrough in last year’s Tour de France, where he finished fifth and won the best young rider designation.
When team leader Cadel Evans of Australia, the 2011 Tour de France titlist, faltered via illness, van Garderen emerged. He finished the three-week race as the highest-placing American and joined Greg LeMond and Andy Hampsten as the only U.S riders to claim the “maillot blanc” (white jersey), a designation given the top rider in the event age 25 or younger.
Van Garderen was born in Tacoma, Wash., but spent his youth in Bozeman, Mont. When he was 10, his father noticed Tejay’s cycling skills blossoming quickly. Two years later, with his tall, thin and strong frame still developing, van Garderen won the first of 10 junior national titles. He turned pro in 2010.
He rapidly excelled, finishing second overall at the Tour of Turkey and third in the Critérium du Dauphiné, an early season French stage race.
The following season, van Garderen was runner-up overall at the Volta ao Algarve in Spain and third overall in the inaugural weeklong USA Pro Challenge in Colorado. He also claimed his first pro win in 2011 in the individual time trial at the Tour of Utah.
While many pro cyclists develop as climbing or sprinting specialists, van Garderen’s overall talents emerged early. He’s 6-foot-1 and about 150 pounds, ideal for long time trials yet lanky for climbing mountains.
Philippe Gilbert of Belgium, the reigning world titlist and van Garderen’s teammate, views his colleague like many others in the sport — a young rider with physical talents and racing savvy beyond his years.
Last season, van Garderen followed his fifth-place finish in the Tour de France
“Sometimes, you have to loosen your grip a little bit and let it come naturally. It’s not something that’s weighing on my mind and keeping me up at night. I still sleep like a baby every night. But
“Tejay is very good at measuring his efforts during a stage race,”
“In the time trial, he will only get stronger as he matures. He is already good in this discipline and will get better. Those are the strengths of a good racer for the grand tours. So he has a bright future ahead.”
“It takes a lot of pieces to fall into place and it takes a lot of patience,” van Garderen said. “Sometimes, young riders don’t really have that.
“It takes being calm in certain circumstances, especially when there’s a lot of pressure and the stakes are really high. If you don’t, you waste a lot of energy and every little bit you can save is energy you can use when it matters. And then it just takes learning and it takes experience.”
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