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After more than 10 years in the WorldTour ranks, Tejay van Garderen will retire after US Road Nationals this weekend, EF Education-Nippo announced on Tuesday.
“The honest truth is that I don’t feel super effective as a bike racer anymore,” he said via a team press release. “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, ‘OK, I’m still a good climber. Maybe I can stay with him in the high mountains and give him support.’
“I’m not skilled enough to be like those cobbled classics guys who are able to shepherd their leader through all the tricky sections. We have guys like Jens Keukeleire and Alberto Bettiol who are much more effective at that than I could ever be. 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.”
Van Garderen, 32, spent several seasons as the most successful American in the men’s WorldTour peloton after emerging as a promising youngster when he joined HTC-Columbia in 2010 and finished third overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné that year. He joined BMC in 2012 and rode to the best young rider’s jersey and fifth overall at the Tour de France that season.
The following year he won the USA Pro Challenge and the Amgen Tour of California, and in 2014 he took his first WorldTour win in a stage at the Volta a Catalunya and then repeated his fifth overall at the Tour. For the next several years, he would continue to contend in the one-week races and he would nab a Grand Tour stage win at the 2017 Giro d’Italia, but the GC success in the three-week races, which many had expected of him after his promising early years, would prove elusive.
Van Garderen joined EF in 2019 and continued to focus on results in the one-week races while spending more time riding for teammates.
“I can understand why a lot of people are probably going to be left wanting more,” Van Garderen said, “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 OK for them to want because people like their winners.”
Now in his third season with EF, having recently finished the Giro d’Italia riding in support of Hugh Carthy, Van Garderen has decided to call it a career.
“I feel like it’s time. I’m OK. I’m ready,” Van Garderen said. “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.”