Tejay van Garderen, like Richie Porte for Sky’s Chris Froome, is one of the important plan Bs in this year’s Tour de France, which starts on Saturday in Corsica. Should his team BMC Racing leader, Cadel Evans, stumble then van Garderen will be there to pick up the pieces.
“You have an advantage because you have a team-mate with you in case something happens,” BMC team manager, Jim Ochowicz told Cycling Weekly.
“Even when Cadel Evans won the Tour de France in 2011 he had a mechanical, luckily we had Marcus Burghardt in the break and he was able to stop and wait. George Hincapie came up and we were scrambling because Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador were going away. Those are things that can happen, you have to be prepared.”
Sky spoke of the importance to have a back up plan. Head coach, Tim Kerrison said that when Bradley Wiggins crashed and abandoned in 2011, it was left without a classification leader.
Since then, Sky has upped its GC firepower. Froome backed Wiggins last year but was capable of winning on his own, just like Porte this year.
Several teams have options or back-up plans. For example, Alejandro Valverde has Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Ryder Hesjedal has Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp).
“That’s the concept [having a back-up plan with Porte],” Kerrison said. “We don’t want what would happen in 2011, where Brad crashed, but now, with the strength and depth.”
Van Garderen, like Porte, is dedicated to his leader first.
“The first goal is to get Cadel on the podium, for the win, but part of that strategy is that we maybe have an extra card to play, to attack Sky or Contador. That kind of strategy only works if you have two guys close on GC,” explained van Garderen in a press conference.
“Cadel can sit there if I attack, that’s a strategy. If I’m playing that card, you never know [I could become the leader], but that’s not the immediate goal as I said from the beginning. If anyone can win the race, it’s him, not me.”
The 24-year-old American placed fifth overall last year and won the white jersey of young rider. Evans suffered from a virus, so eventually he was able to ride free.
This May, he won his first stage race, the Tour of California. Working with Evans, he is picking up the necessary tools to win – and that could include the Tour de France.
“Yeah, it’s good to learn as much as you can to absorb things,” he told Cycling Weekly.
“He’s a smart and experienced rider; you can take a lot from him in the way he prepares. The way he prepares for a TT with a radio in the car, his diet and how he eats, and the order he eats. I learnt a lot from him in the way he prepares.”
Van Garderen is available again to win the white jersey. He said it is not the first goal, but that the experience last year gave him a glimpse of what it would be like to stand on the “real podium” as a winner.