Tejay van Garderen is motivated for the Tour of California and happy to be back racing in his home country. But the BMC Racing rider explained at the pre-race press conference that he is sharing the role of team leader with fellow American Brent Bookwalter.
“This race wasn’t actually on my programme from the beginning of the year, while Brent’s been focused on this race from the beginning,” Van Garderen explained. “That being said, we’re both super-motivated. We’re both very capable of podium results, and even top-step podium results. I think it’s only going to help us having two cards to play.”
Van Garderen’s year has been impacted by back-to-back crashes, and he’s hoping that the Tour of California will help get his season back on track.
“I had a few crashes this year: in Paris-Nice, I hit the back of a car and missed that race, and then before Catalunya, I had a crash in training. I was able to race Catalunya, but then I had to skip Pays Basque because I was kind of racing through injuries and had to give myself time to recover. I was looking at the programmes thinking, ‘How can I make up some races?’ and they said, ‘What about if you go back to California?’ And at first, I was, like, ‘Great!’ But it’s a lot of travel and stuff. But then when I started to think about it, I decided it was a good idea.”
Van Garderen is a previous winner of the Tour of California, having taken the 2013 edition thanks in part to a strong time trial in San Jose that year. The course is somewhat similar this year, with summit finishes on stage 2 and in South Lake Tahoe on stage 6.
Managing dual leadership is always tricky, but Van Garderen says the strategy will be decided in the race. “That sounds like a cliched answer, but there’s going to be a time where the race is happening and one of us is going to have better legs than the other and then the other one’s going to. I will gladly sacrifice for Brent, and Brent in the past has gladly shown that he will sacrifice for me, so I think it only makes us stronger to have two of us out there.”
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