Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing)
The 23-year-old Montana native goes into his second Tour de France in the service of leader Cadel Evans. This time, his BMC Racing team will be looking for him to gain valuable experience in the three-week trip around France as he matures into a future Tour contender. Van Garderen won the white jersey for best young rider at this year’s eight-day Paris-Nice stage race in March, and followed that up with fourth overall in the Amgen Tour of California in May, one placing better than 2011.
With George Hincapie and company keeping Evans out of harm’s way in the run-up to the mountain stages, van Garderen will look to take over as right-hand man in the Alps and the Pyrénées. Another place to look out for him will be in the Tour’s 101.1km (62.8mi) of time trials. After riding to second behind Dave Zabriskie in the 2012 U.S. national time trial championship, van Garderen should contend in the prologue and the stage 9 time trial. Whether he will temper his stage 9 effort to save himself for the mountains, or go all out in a chase for the white jersey, is yet to be seen. And it will be in the stage 19 time trial that we will see just how far van Garderen has come in a year; he lost more than five minutes in the penultimate-stage TT in 2011.
Working for a defending Tour winner in Evans this year is part of van Garderen’s master plan to become an overall contender in the near future, so he is as much one to watch in the 2012 Tour de France as he will be in Tours to come. This is the future of American stage racing.