• Tejay van Garderen and BMC will hope to make an impact at the Amgen Tour of California. (Getty)Source: Getty
Tejay van Garderen will ease off the brakes at the Amgen Tour of California to race on renewed motivation and potentially toward a career second title triumph.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
13 May 2018 - 10:34 AM 

Van Garderen wasn’t originally meant to compete at the seven-stage race but came around to the idea, which BMC Racing put forward to the American following a series of early season mishaps.

“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 had to skip Pays Basque because I was racing through injuries. I had to give myself time to recover,” van Garderen said.

“I was looking at the programs thinking about how I could make up some race days and BMC suggested California. At first, I was like pump the brakes. It’s a lot of travel. But then when I started thinking about it, it was an idea that got me really motivated. Once we decided to put it in, it gave me a fresh feeling, a new motivation and got me really excited.”

The 29-year-old hasn’t competed at California since his title victory in 2013. Van Garderen in the interim has focused on Grand Tours including the Giro d’Italia last year, which he finished 20th overall, as well as the Tour de France.

The climber initially transferred from the defunct Highroad team to BMC with a vision of effectively replacing Cadel Evans as its marquee Grand Tour racer.

That is yet to eventuate, with mitigating factors including injury, hunger flats and illness all contributing, and won’t at least in the first half of this season.

Van Garderen will take a break from the post and support Richie Porte as a super domestique at the Tour in July.

In the meantime, there is California where BMC has more than one hand to play with he and co-captain Brent Bookwalter, who finished fourth overall here last season.

“It’s a two-pronged approach,” van Garderen said. “This race wasn’t actually on my program from the beginning of the year and Brent has been focused on this from the beginning. That means we’re both super motivated, we’re both very capable of podium results, even top-step podium results.

“I think it’s only going to help us having two cards to play,” he continued. “A lot is going to be decided out on the road. That sounds like a cliché answer but there is going to be a time where the race is happening, one of us is going to have better legs than the other. I would gladly sacrifice for Brent and Brent in the past has showed that he can gladly sacrifice for me.”

The tour opens in Long Beach on Sunday local time with a course made for sprinters. Climbers don’t have a long wait to test themselves, however, with the queen stage from Ventura the day after.