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MILAN, Italy (VN) — BMC Racing is preparing to support Tejay van Garderen at the Tour de France this year. The American, who finished fifth in 2012, will lead the team in France while Cadel Evans aims at the Giro d’Italia.
“The plan is to be there to help Tejay van Garderen win,” said Darwin Atapuma, the team’s new Colombian climber. “He’s the jefe, or the boss of the team. Maybe I’ll have my chance for a stage win, but if I go, it’s for Tejay.”
BMC will wait until the last minute, likely in June, to select its nine-man Tour team. However, it has already begun building van Garderen’s support system.
This winter, it hired 26-year-old climbing ace Atapuma. In his two years with Claudio Corti’s team Colombia, he won a stage in the Tour of Poland and one in 2012 on the Passo Pordoi at the Giro del Trentino.
To prepare Atapuma for the jump to the first division and a supporting role at the Tour, BMC sent new coach Marco Pinotti to Colombia to help him train. Pinotti gave him advice on training at altitude and time trialing. They will remain close; after some time in Colombia, Atapuma will base himself in Italy’s Lombardy region.
“I’m not nervous at all,” Atapuma said in San Luis about the job ahead. “I feel calm with the support and teammates around me.”
BMC also hired Slovakian Peter Velits, who raced five of the last six editions of the Tour and won two stages of the Vuelta a España. And the team picked up American Peter Stetina, who left Garmin-Sharp in part to ride alongside van Garderen.
“Tejay’s been progressing well and steadily,” Stetina told VeloNews. “It’s been consistent, and for that matter, trustworthy, because it is such a consistent steady progression. He’s shown that he’s that motor, we just have to put it all together.”
Before joining BMC, Stetina had spent his entire professional career at Jonathan Vaughters’ team. In 2012, he helped Ryder Hesjedal win the Giro. Along with Christian Vande Velde, he supported Hesjedal in a head-to-head mountain battle against Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha).
“I hope that I can draw on my Giro experience if I ever get into the same situation in the Tour de France with Tejay,” he said.
As Stetina said, van Garderen rose steadily in his years with Highroad and BMC. The last two seasons, he supported Evans at the Tour. In 2012, general manager Jim Ochowicz set him free in the final stages to secure the white jersey and fifth overall.
Last year, he again supported Evans in France, but had his chances back home, where he won the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado and the Amgen Tour of California.
This year, with Evans aiming solely at the Giro, van Garderen will get his shot at the Tour. With Stetina, Atapuma and others coming aboard, BMC is making sure it’s ready for the task.