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PONFERRADA, Spain (VN) — Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) has a busy week ahead of him, racing all three events on tap during the road world cycling championships.
With one eye on the podium for the elite men’s time trial Wednesday, van Garderen will also be part of Team America’s wide-open squad for the road race next weekend.
First comes Sunday’s trade team time trial, when he will don his BMC Racing jersey before pulling on the stars and stripes for the rest of the week.
“We have put a lot of emphasis on it. It’s important for us,” van Garderen told VeloNews. “We had that really close call in 2012, and that still kind of stings us a little bit. It’s a big goal.”
Van Garderen, 26, was referring to BMC’s three-second loss to Omega Pharma-Quick Step in the inaugural TTT world championship in 2012.
Since then, the event has quickly grown to be a point of pride with bragging rights among the top teams.
Sunday’s race will see at least a half dozen teams going all out for the title, with Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Orica-GreenEdge, Sky, Movistar, Giant-Shimano, Garmin-Sharp, and BMC Racing all aiming for victory.
“Team time trials are cool, you get up there on the podium with all your teammates,” van Garderen said. “When you think about it, there are only four or five people that have a realistic chance to become world champion in the individual time trial or the road race. We feel we have a real chance.”
A relaxed van Garderen sat down with VeloNews in the hotel lobby Saturday evening for a quick chat about his 2014 season, which he called his “best ever.”
“I got my first WorldTour win at the Volta a Catalunya, I was able to defend my title at Colorado, and I was really proud of what we did at the Tour de France,” he said. “It was my best season ever as a pro, without a doubt.”
After winning Colorado for a second time, van Garderen took a well-deserved break before returning to competition at the Canadian WorldTour races earlier this month. After the worlds, there’s no rest for the weary, with planned starts at the Giro di Lombardia and the Tour of Beijing.
Van Garderen arrives at the worlds motivated to race, and quietly optimistic he can take home some hardware in one of the three races he’s starting.
Riders started to arrive in Ponferrada on Thursday, and have had a chance to work together and preview the course. At 55km, it’s a long one compared to TTT stages in the grand tours.
“You’ve got to be on your ‘A’ game to win,” van Garderen said. “I think we’re ready.”
After the team time trial, he will slip into his USA Cycling jersey to race the individual time trial Wednesday and the men’s road race Sunday.
He thinks the TTT effort will only help his chances to try to upset the favorites, such as three-time defending world time trial champion Tony Martin or Bradley Wiggins, on Wednesday.
“The best worlds TT I’ve ever done, from juniors, U23s, and pros, was in 2012, when I did the team time trial, and I was fourth. This hard effort is actually good for me,” he said.
“I will go as hard as I can to try to get the win. I know I am not on the same level as Martin or Wiggins, and I need to be realistic. Maybe they will have a bad day, and I will have a good day. I’ve been close to a medal before. I was only five seconds off a medal in 2012, so why not?”
Looking ahead to next weekend’s road race, van Garderen is also realistic about the U.S. team’s chances for the rainbow jersey. With such heavy favorites as Peter Sagan, Fabian Cancellara, and Alejandro Valverde, Van Garderen said the U.S. team will need to play its cards right.
“We have a few different plans. We obviously don’t have a big favorite,” he said. “We have a few guys who are ready to work, and we have guys like Alex [Howes] who can be fast in a select group in the end, and guys like me and [Andrew] Talansky, if there is a move going away on the last few laps. We want to spread around our chances to win. I think we’ll work well together. We want to at least animate the race.”
For van Garderen, who’s been a staple of the U.S. racing program since his junior days, the world championships is about more than simply performing — it’s also about enjoying the ambiance of elite international competition.
“I always enjoy racing the worlds. You get to hang out with your fellow countrymen. It’s cool,” he said. “These are the guys you grew up with racing since juniors, and now we’re all on different trade teams, so it’s nice to catch up. It’s a little easier to understand the accents. We can talk about football.”
That’s certainly not what he talks about around the BMC Racing dinner table on most nights during the racing season, unless it’s futbol.