ORLÉANS, France (VN) — Tejay van Garderen is getting some quality podium time at Paris-Nice thanks to leading the young rider’s white jersey competition.
Now in his third season as a professional, van Garderen is no longer content with the novelty of the white jersey. He wants the real deal and enters 2012 with ambitions to claim yellow at several big events this season. Van Garderen was fourth in Sunday’s opening time trial and rode into Monday’s decisive, 21-man breakaway as the peloton fractured under heavy winds.
Still fourth following Monday’s brutal stage, the BMC rider leads the white jersey competition and is just 11 seconds out of yellow.
“The white jersey is always a cool little prize; it’s never the goal, it’s always something nice,” van Garderen told VeloNews. “I had a good start (Sunday). If you have a good prologue, it just kind of sets the stage and helps you carry that momentum throughout the rest of the week.”
For 2012, van Garderen has two goals: the first is to shine in smaller stage races like Paris-Nice and then later in the season he hopes to help Cadel Evans in the Tour de France. Paris-Nice is the first major target for van Garderen, who’s come close to big wins before and finally got his first pro win last year racing in the United States.
“I do want to win a GC. I had my first pro win last year at the Tour of Utah in the time trial, that was good to get that under my belt,” van Garderen told VeloNews in an interview earlier this year. “The next step in that progression would be to win a GC, whether that would be California or Paris-Nice or Colorado, even something like Tour de l’Ain or Algarve. Being last year in Colorado with the jersey, it’s not easy to handle that stress of having the jersey. So if I can learn to handle that stress and deliver a GC win in the end, that would be a big step.”
Team boss Jim Ochowicz said BMC is more than pleased to have van Garderen on its roster. The squad aggressively shopped for van Garderen, out-bidding several teams interested in his services that included Rabobank and RadioShack.
Ochowicz told VeloNews on Monday that the team is backing van Garderen’s ambitions at races like Paris-Nice.
“Tejay is a rider for the future. At races like Paris-Nice, he can have his chances and try to win. He obviously has the caliber to do that,” Ochowicz said. “Then at the Tour, he can help Cadel in the mountains and observe and learn about what it’s like to race for three weeks. Tejay is very happy with that plan and so are we.”
Van Garderen counted on BMC teammate Taylor Phinney to stay with the elite group of 21 in Monday’s windy stage that saw the peloton fracture under intense crosswinds.
With some decisive climbing stages on tap, van Garderen knows he will have to be at his best to be able to knock back riders such as race leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
“Wiggins looks like he’s on incredible form. We’ll see what happens in Mende and some of the other stages. There are a couple of uphill finishes where there could be some gaps,” van Garderen said. “The (Sunday) time trial is going to be big. It’s an uphill time trial, so it might level the playing field a little bit. Col d’Eze was in the race last year, but to be honest, I don’t really remember it.”
Van Garderen is constantly hailed as a future winner of big European races. He’s hoping the future is now this week at Paris-Nice.