Van Garderen turned pro with HTC-Colombia in 2010 and nearly immediately began grabbing headlines and results as an up-and-coming star of the sport, reaching the 2011 Criterium du Dauphiné podium at the age of 21 before moving on to BMC.
He went on to support Cadel Evans at a number of races, also sharing co-leadership with the Australian Tour de France champion on occasion, finishing ahead of the then-defending champion for fifth in the 2012 edition of the French Grand Tour, and fifth overall again in 2014. He would also share leadership with another Australian when Richie Porte joined the team, with the Australian ultimately receiving the majority of the support in big races.
Van Garderen retires with an impressive set of wins, 16 in total in UCI races including two overall victories at the USA Pro Challenge, a Tour of California title, as well as stages at the Giro d'Italia, Tour de Suisse and Volta a Catalunya. He finished on the podium of the Critérium du Dauphiné on three occasions and rode 17 Grand Tours, with his two fifth-placed finishes at the Tour de France in 2012 and 2014 his pinnacle at the three-week races.
Van Garderen came under some close scrutiny from the US media at times over the course of his cycling career in the wake of failing to meet high expectations, but announced his retirement content in the knowledge that he had acquitted himself well at the top level of the sport.
"I feel like it's time. I'm okay. I'm ready," said van Garderen. "I'm extremely proud of everything I accomplished in my career. I know personally how hard I worked to achieve what I've achieved, and I know what level I was able to hit.
"Results aside, I know that I got the best out of myself. I wish there were times that I had got to that level just a bit more often or more frequently. But I know what level I was able to hit. I'm certainly happy with what I've done."
"I can understand why a lot of people are probably going to be left wanting more because they saw the results I achieved at a really young age. I stayed consistent for a number of years at a high level, but I never really broke through to that next level. That's what people wanted to see. I understand that. That's okay for them to want because people like their winners."
The 32-year-old hasn't been the force that he once was in recent years, the last race where he was at the pointy end was the 2019 Criterium du Dauphine where he took second overall.
"The honest truth is that I don’t feel super effective as a bike racer anymore," said van Garderen. "Once your ability starts to be less than it was, you have to find a way to make yourself effective. I was really motivated by the rise of Hugh Carthy, and I wanted to be able to mentor him and help him. I said, 'Okay, I'm still a good climber. Maybe I can stay with him in the high mountains and give him support'.
"But the truth is I wasn't able to just climb into a group of the 20 best anymore, to be able to give a leader like Hugh support in the high mountains. So I was riding around thinking, well, what do I do? How am I effective in the race? And if I really took a good, honest look in the mirror, I said, 'Well, if you have eight people to fill a roster, I could name eight people that would serve a purpose better than I could serve that purpose'."