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Peter Velits (BMC Racing) has finished on more grand-tour podiums than Tejay van Garderen, but the experienced Slovakian is ready to sacrifice his chances to help his younger American teammate.
In fact, it was Velits’ second-place ride behind Vincenzo Nibali in the 2010 Vuelta a España that the 28-year-old is taking to heart in his move to BMC Racing in 2014.
“Tejay helped me a lot to finish second in the 2010 Vuelta when we were teammates,” said Velits, referring to when the pair rode together on High Road. “Now it’s my turn to help him in the Tour.”
That Velits, a former U23 world champion and GC threat in his own right, is lining up as a helper for this year’s Tour de France shows just how much BMC is betting on van Garderen this summer.
The 2010 Vuelta also marked van Garderen’s grand-tour debut at the ripe age of 21. After some big early season results, van Garderen went to that Vuelta to learn, and to help.
Since then, van Garderen has emerged as a Tour contender, riding to fifth overall and the white jersey in the 2012 Tour. After winning both the Amgen Tour of California and the USA Pro Challenge in 2013, van Garderen will be pushing for the Tour podium this year.
BMC was looking to bolster its support for van Garderen for what will be his first season starting as the outright leader, and Velits fit right in.
“Tejay and I were friends from High Road. We always got along well,” Velits said. “Tejay has a great future in the Tour. I am looking forward to riding to support him there. Perhaps I will have some other chances in other races, but the plan is to ride for Tejay in the Tour.”
Velits hit his high-water mark in that Vuelta. Since then, he’s struggled to deliver strong results in grand tours, riding to a career-best 18th in the 2011 Tour in High Road’s last season, without much help, since the team was largely backing Mark Cavendish that year.
In two seasons with Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Velits posted some solid results, including overall victory at the 2012 Tour of Oman, but could only muster 27th and 25th in the past two editions of the French tour.
The pair lined up together for the first time this season at the Tour of Oman, where van Garderen finished second overall behind Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky).
Velits is one of several new riders BMC has signed on for 2014 to help van Garderen in the Tour. Others include Peter Stetina, who joined after riding his entire career for the Slipstream organization, and Darwin Atapuma, a lean Colombian climber who joins BMC from Team Colombia.
The new arrivals are part of major changes at BMC Racing, where new sporting manager Allan Peiper has helped introduce a new coaching and training platform for the U.S.-registered team.
Those backroom changes are already paying dividends, with BMC Racing riding hot out of the gate. Cadel Evans won a stage and finished second overall at the Santos Tour Down Under; Taylor Phinney won a stage and the overall at the Dubai Tour; and Steve Cummings won a stage and the overall at the Tour Méditerranéen.
Evans will focus on the Giro d’Italia this year while the team is rallying its Tour hopes around van Garderen.
For Velits, that’s just fine.
“It’s exciting to be on this team right now,” he said. “Everyone is looking forward to the season. I think we can make a great Tour.”
For Velits, it’s also a new beginning, as his move to BMC Racing marks the first time he will race on a different team than his twin brother, Martin, who remains on Omega Pharma-Quick Step for 2014.