LYON, France (VN) — Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) returned to racing on Sunday with a ninth place in the opening time trial of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
“After crashing in [Tour de] Romandie,” the American told VeloNews, “I don’t want to take any risks.”
Van Garderen continued after hitting the deck in Romandie’s prologue, but had to withdraw three days later. Along with Paris-Nice, it was the second big stage race that he had to abandon this spring.
“Sometimes things happen,” said van Garderen after previewing the Dauphiné course Sunday morning; he would go on to finish 13 seconds behind stage winner Chris Froome (Sky) in the 10.4km stage.
“I had a crash in Romandie, was sick in Paris-Nice, but at the same time, I had a good Tour of Oman, a good Catalunya and a good País Vasco, so I know that the fitness is there.”
Van Garderen said he hopes to use the Dauphiné to test his fitness for the Tour de France next month. Besides Froome, he faces Tour favorites Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
“I need to just to get some race rhythm in. I’m going to try to go high on the GC but I know that my goal’s a month away,” he said. “I just want to see where my rivals are, see where I’m at compared to them, what I need to work on in training.
“If I’m getting dropped early in the climb, then I know that I need to work on climbing. If the accelerations are hard, then I know I need to work on that.”
After abandoning Romandie, van Garderen trained in Aspen, Colorado. He returned to Europe to preview some of the Tour’s Pyrenean stages.
This week, he will get a tour of the Alps. On Monday, the Dauphiné features a summit finish up the Col du Béal; on Sunday, it ends with a climb up Courchevel. It will not only give van Garderen an indicator of his fitness, but an important reading on his rivals.
“It’s like that every year in the Dauphiné. You get some people from the Giro d’Italia coming in, you don’t know how they are going to go after such a hard race, and you have some guys that took the whole month of May off,” he said.
“Froome hasn’t raced since Romandie, Contador since País Vasco, Nibali has been at altitude. … Every guy who contends to the Tour usually uses the month of May as a build-up so no one really knows where anyone else stands.
“It’s always an unknown, but it’s not rocket science — the guys who are always up there are going to be up there this week.”
Van Garderen said that he is “not worried” about the missed races and is just looking for a boost.
“I know that I train really well, I can come off a big time [away] and always be good, you saw that a couple of times this year, like in Catalunya. Racing definitely helps, it gives you that extra boost, and I’m hoping to get that from here to the Tour.”