Tejay van Garderen focused on Tour de France's next mountain stages
Tejay van Garderen remains confused as to why he faltered in the Pyrenees but is optimistic about opportunities in the third week of the Tour de France that hits Mont Ventoux today.
Many expected the 24-year-old to shine in the first mountain test of the Tour given his impressive campaign last season in which he won the white jersey and finished fifth overall - two places ahead of an ill BMC leader Cadel Evans.
But the American's shot at a white jersey title defence went in stage eight to AX 3 Domaines where he lost contact and finished the day 12 minutes and 38 seconds in arrears of race leader Chris Froome (Sky). An attempt to make the break the next day didn't work.
"It's been a bit of a mental struggle. I was expecting more out of myself but I think I'm bouncing back OK and excited to try something," he told Cycling Weekly before the start of stage 14 yesterday.
"It certainly wasn't my level - getting dropped off the back at a power that normally I could easily do in training. It was kind of confusing as to why that happened. But there's still a lot of racing to go so there's still plenty of opportunities.
"Sometimes you just have to try as much as you can because those breaks are so hard to get in to and they are so unpredictable that you kind of just have to go for it whenever you see the opportunity. If you put everything into the one it might not work."
Van Garderen was part of the 18-man break that comprised yesterday's defining move. He has earmarked a few stages and remains confident he can return to the race as a genuine general classification in the near future.
"[Tuesday's] stage into Gap looks like an interesting one. And pretty much every stage from today on is going to be hard," he said.
Van Garderen entered the Tour with aspirations to defend the white jersey but primarily to support Evans in another maillot jaune bid. He appeared on track to do so finishing second overall at the Tour de San Luis in January, fourth at Paris-Nice, first at the Tour of California and seventh at the Tour de Suisse.
"I don't think last year's result was a fluke," he said. I think I've proven at other races that I can fight up there for GC on any sort of terrain. So next year I want to prove that I can be a GC contender here."
Evans, 36, competed at the Giro, finishing third overall, before his Tour assault in an effort to compensate for the race days he lost last year due to illness. The Australian is currently 13th in the general classification, 6:54 adrift of Froome.
"He still has a chance to get into the top 10, which would be important but not exactly what we were aiming for," van Garderen said. "We have a lot of freedom to try something whenever we see the opportunity."
Tour leadership was not an issue Evans or van Garderen stirred in the lead-up to the race. However, it is set to be something the latter pushes for next season.
"I think next year I should have a bit more of the team's backing and full support. This year was Cadel's, not necessarily last chance but we gave Cadel 100 per cent of the team support," van Garderen said.
"I'm signed through 2016 so this is definitely a long term project that I have with them. I think I'll have plenty of opportunities to lead the team in the Tour."
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Sophie Smith is an Australian journalist, broadcaster and author of Pain & Privilege: Inside Le Tour. She follows the WorldTour circuit, working for British, Australian and US press, and has covered 10 Tours de France.
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