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BOURG-EN-BRESSE, France (VN) — Tejay van Garderen leaned against his bike, seeking shade under the BMC Racing team bus awning, staying cool before the inevitable battle of Thursday’s hilly stage across the Massif Central.
Staying cool has been the mantra for van Garderen so far through this Tour de France. As rivals such as Chris Froome (Sky), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) have flamed out, the BMC captain has safely navigated the choppy waters of the turbulent first half of the Tour.
He’s had his first share of bumps and close calls, including four crashes in the opening week, but van Garderen pedals toward the decisive climbing stages with everything still in play and is 3:56 behind race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) through stage 12.
With the Alps looming, and the real battle in the mountains about to begin with back-to-back summit finales Friday and Saturday, van Garderen is ready to see how far he can go in this Tour. VeloNews caught up with van Garderen before the start of Thursday’s stage.
VN: You’ve survived the first half of the Tour. Are you satisfied where you are right now midway through the Tour?
TVG: It hasn’t gone perfect, but it could have been a lot worse, when you look at guys like Talansky, Froome, and Contador. There are still a couple of ‘what ifs’ out there, but you have to put that out of your mind, and keep looking forward.
VN: Behind Nibali, the top-10 is still very tight. How do you see the race developing in the coming days?
TVG: Now that we’re into the double-digit stages, it’s always like that in a grand tour, you start seeing guys crack one by one. You saw that yesterday with [Rui] Costa. Tomorrow, getting into the mountains, we’re going to see more people to fall out of there.
VN: You prefer the longer climbs of the Alps compared to what we’ve seen so far through the Vosges?
TVG: The longer, steadier climbs suit me better than the short, punchy stuff. I think we’ve survived the most hectic part of the Tour, now it’s a matter of fitness.
VN: How are your legs?
TVG: All things considered, I am feeling pretty good.
VN: Now that the Tour is heading into the Alps, the peloton will be able to see Nibali’s true colors. What do you expect?
TVG: I am not sure what other teams’ tactics will be. Astana might show a few chinks in their armor, but they’re looking pretty strong. They have a good team for the mountains. They’ll probably try to keep it controlled as much as they can.
VN: How will the absence of Contador and Tinkoff-Saxo to control and attack the pack change the race?
TVG: I don’t know. I think you’ll see a lot of aggressive riding from Richie Porte, from [Alejandro] Valverde, and those three French guys who are up there. They’re all looking really strong. It might make it harder for Astana not to have a helping hand, but we’ll still see some exciting racing.
VN: At this point, are you thinking podium, or do you think you could win this thing?
TVG: I am looking to not do anything stupid, take it day by day. I think we’ll see some people crack, and I think if I can stay strong, I can have a really high finish in Paris.