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PARIS, France (VN) — Is the planned passing of the torch at BMC Racing as simple as Tejay van Garderen’s passing of Cadel Evans on the road?
That’s unlikely, but it’s something the team will ponder after van Garderen’s performance at a Tour de France in which he was supposed to play second fiddle to defending champion Evans but wound up coming in fifth overall and winning the white jersey, for the Tour’s best young rider.
“I think it’s a surprise for all of us. I expected him to be here to help Cadel on the climbs, and he was doing that. I didn’t think he could do it every day like he’s done it, so that was a bit of a surprise for us and I think for him, too,” said BMC manager Jim Ochowicz.
Evans battled stomach problems at a crucial moment in this Tour de France, dropping the gritty Australian down in the overall classification. Van Garderen, though, was freed to ride his own race.
He didn’t disappoint. Van Garderen rode a strong time trial on Saturday, finishing seventh at 2:34 behind winner and yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins — and passing team leader Evans — to secure his fifth place and cement his hold on the white jersey.
The American squad signed Van Garderen as the heir apparent to Evans, but he may have progressed a little more rapidly than either of them had expected.
The plan was to have van Garderen shepherd his captain in the mountains of France this year, but the plan never really worked out, either because van Garderen wasn’t around — as on La Planche des Belles Filles — or because Evans wasn’t able to make an attack up the Glandon stick and would later be dropped in the Pyrénées as he suffered from stomach problems.
After the Pyrénées, van Garderen said the team had shifted to more of a “co-leadership” position, between he and Evans. That much was clear toward the end of this Tour, and BMC will consider its approach, according to management.
“I think that it’s moving in that direction, and that was the intent to begin with when we signed Tejay,” Ochowicz said. “That Cadel is with us for a couple more years, and that Tejay would be here as our next generation. Cadel understands that, and he would mentor him though this period, as a leader. And then, eventually, handing that leadership over to Tejay.”
But when that happens is anyone’s guess. Van Garderen is one of a long list of lieutenants that’s appeared ready for the glare of team leadership. Ochowicz didn’t know when the mantle would fall to the American.
“Now, whether that’s next year, or the year after, I can’t answer that right now. We have to do a post analysis of this whole thing,” hs said. “And we, obviously, need to do a little bit more work if we’re going to stand back on the podium, on the No. 1 spot. We need to take a look at what we’ve done here, how we’ve prepared and analyze where we’re at and make a plan for next year. But we’re not doing that today.”
As far as van Garderen’s future GC pursuits, there are a few things he’ll need to sharpen before the podium is a realistic goal, Ochowicz said.
“Like everybody else — time trialing and climbing. He seems pretty equal in both counts right now,” he said. “He still needs more. He needs to be in the front. Win a stage. There are certain things you have to do before you win the Tour. First thing is, you need to win a mountain stage. You need to win a time trial. Then you need to package it together. It takes time.”
And van Garderen himself seems to be in no great hurry to take command.
Saying on the BMC website that he didn’t consider Saturday’s stage to be a “passing of the torch” moment, van Garderen added: “I still think he (Evans) has another Tour win in him next year and I’d be happy to help him.”