• Vuelta-bound... Tejay van Garderen is hoping for a reversal of fortune when he undertakes the Vuelta a España on August 22. (AFP)Source: AFP
Tejay van Garderen's decision to race the upcoming Vuelta a España will, like most endeavours based more on feeling than facts, go one of two ways, writes Anthony Tan.
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31 Jul 2015 - 12:41 PM  UPDATED 31 Jul 2015 - 6:21 PM

Not that he or his team is obligated to do so, but I don't think we've seen a full and frank discussion since Tejay van Garderen's shock withdrawal on Stage 17 of this year's Tour de France.

Nothing on Twitter since July 20, when he wished team-mate Greg Van Avermaet luck for the birth of his first child. No press conferences. No interviews. After that day, no statement from the team, further explaining what or why it happened.

Last thing we saw was the young American standing by the roadside on July 22 with 70 kilometres to go in the 161km stage to Pra Loup, his head cradled in Max Sciandri's arms, before the forlorn figure wearing dossard 61 was escorted to the nearby team car.

According to the press release issued that day, Dr. Max Testa, BMC Racing's chief medical officer, said there was no indication the respiratory situation van Garderen was suffering from - described by the rider himself as "a little bit of the sniffles and not a big deal", before morphing into "feverish symptoms and chills" on the second rest day in Gap - would sap his power so significantly on the first of four consecutive race days in the Alps.

"This morning, I woke up and thought the worst of it had passed. I felt ready to race and was back, closer to normal," van Garderen said via a statement issued by his team.

"But then once I got out there, the muscles just had no energy. Straight away from the start, I kind of knew this wasn't good and hopefully I could just hide and maybe ride into it for a few kilometers and start to feel better. But the sensations never came."

"We were hoping by the rest day, he would have gotten over it," Dr. Testa said. "Today was very hard at the start. So the combination and the fatigue that he built up in the previous days cost him the race."

And that was that.

"Did he make the decision because the expected announcement that Richie Porte is joining BMC Racing is imminent, and, after what transpired at this year's Tour, he feels (or knows) outright leadership next July is under a cloud?"

Given Dr Testa's lack of foresight into exactly how severe those early sniffles would turn out to be, it would have been prudent for van Garderen to have undergone extensive medical tests to determine if it was more than a combination of fever and fatigue. We're not sure if that's happened or not.

The eventual winner, Chris Froome, had largely kept under wraps he was not at full health from that first day in the Alps to Paris (although he was often seen coughing at the finish); likewise, Nairo Quintana, the runner-up, was reportedly less than one-hundred per cent midway through the Tour, though clearly bounced back in week three.

However, both managed to deal with their situations without suffering anything like the jour sans experienced by van Garderen - which went from him talking up his chances of a podium finish the day prior (by all accounts, a very real possibility; five days from Paris some would say probability, given the way his team had nursed him through the opening ten road stages and his measured ride in the Pyrenees) to arriving in Pra Loup in a Mercedes Benz, exiting France the following day.

Froome and Quintana are both seriously contemplating riding the upcoming Vuelta a España, exactly three weeks away. As of Wednesday, van Garderen went from contemplation to confirmation; for the 26-year-old, it will be a tour of redemption, or at the very least, a search for it.

"Due to his illness and withdrawal from this year's Tour de France, we had an opportunity to reconsider what was best for Tejay in the coming months," Jim Ochowicz, BMC Racing's general manager, said.

Initially down to race the USA Pro Challenge, the one-week Coloradan race he's won the past two years, "after looking at the route and considering what happened at the Tour, all things just seemed to point in the direction that the Vuelta was the path to take," said van Garderen via team statement. "The more I have thought about it, the more excited I am about doing it. It is a great new challenge

"This is 100 per cent my decision. It would be nice to go out and try to win the USA Pro Challenge again. But after what happened at the Tour, I need to prove myself on a bigger scale."

I wonder, though, whether he is in a position, physically and mentally, to take on another Grand Tour, given the circumstances that saw him leave a race he spent almost an entire year preparing for. Did he make the decision out of obligation, by virtue of being the team's highest-paid rider (didn't you know BMC stands for Big Money Company?), and so more out of guilt rather than want?

Did he make the decision because the expected announcement that Richie Porte is joining BMC Racing is imminent, and, after what transpired at this year's Tour, he feels (or knows) outright leadership next July is under a cloud unless he makes amends in Spain? Or has he already been told by performance director Allan Peiper that he and Porte will be co-leaders at the 2016 Tour, which, based on recent precedent at BMC (and most other teams with a bona fide podium contender, for that matter) does not really work?

The season's final Grand Tour begins August 22 in Porto Banus, with a 7.4 kilometre team time trial.

We all know how good BMC Racing is at that discipline. However, that is all but one of twenty-three days and twenty-one stages to contend with till Tejay makes it to Madrid, 3,367 kilometres later.

I can only see this experiment (given the lack of preparation and the circumstances that led to such a commitment, it can only be described as such) going one of two ways: really well or really badly.

As the saying goes, all's well that ends well.