The big excitement was all about Mr Cycling Universe Philippe Gilbert coming in for megabucks and practically guaranteed two or three classics wins. The man was on fire and nobody had a clue how to put him out. We know how that turned out, don’t we?
The second addition was Thor Hushovd coming off a monster Tour de France with two stage wins and a week in yellow. After the disappointment of watching his domestique and stick-man Johan Van Summeren ride off with his coveted Paris Roubaix trophy, Hushovd was back in the action, a norse force, a dominating presence. Until he caught Gilbert’s virus and never recovered.
It was a fantastic coup for BMC owner and rich man Andy Rhys to sign both those men — yay super-team! – but any fool could see if wasn’t going to help Cadel Evans much in his Tour de France defense.
The only meaningful improvement to the BMC roster, the plan to double Evan’s collection of maillot jaunes, was the young gun from Montana and Boulder, Colorado, Tejay Van Garderen. By comparison it wasn’t near enough to counter the Rogers, Porte, Froome hors category Sky train that Wiggins had at his disposal but it was something at least.
It was an a wise and long term smart move because even the casual observer could see that one day Van Garderen would win a Tour de France himself. He could climb and time trial but most of all he had the character, confidence and recovery to triumph in Le Grand Shindig.
The idea was that Van Garderen would learn from the master, tour winner Cadel Evans. He’d do his advanced studies in the Pyrenees and Alps over the next two years supporting Evans and soaking up both the shattering pain and finer points of what it takes to win the most brutal and beautiful stage race in all of cycling.
Well, the grand tour finishing school is now finished. That’s a good news, bad news scenario. The bad is that Cadel Evans looks like an old man gritting his teeth through the mountains. In a Tour tailor-made for his time trial skills he’s now in seventh place, over eight minutes back with one mountain stage to go. In other words, dead. He’s had not one, but two bad days, he’s done, kangaroo cooked, age 35 not good on ya, mate.
The good news, is that his 23 year old prodigy is ready to take over on a fast track, unexpectedly early and the future is now. Van Garderen sits one place higher than Evans, just 11 seconds ahead but with an upside that screams team leader. He’s already proven strong in the climbs and he out time-trialed his team captain Evans.
One of the enduring and honest cliches of the sport is how fast and definitive the end comes for a rider nearing the final stage of his career. Evans is a fighter and a true champion and we have tremendous respect for his accomplishments. A dozen extra chapeaus for doing it clean and helping change the image of the sport.
That said, we’d expect that the leader of the BMC squad next year in the Tour de France will be Tejay Van Garderen. The route will be more mountainous and Evans a year older and Tejay even faster and more determined. Put it this way: who would you throw up against Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali in the mountains — old man Cadel or Tejay?
So although it seems cruel and callous and maybe even uncalled for, we pass the BMC torch to Van Garderen. The official word is that they are now co-captains but that was out of respect for Evans’ palmares and ignores the glaring fact: Van Garderen is climbing higher and Evans is not.