The Tour of California has ended and HTC-Highroad’s young talent Tejay Van Garderen is not in the golden jersey. He won the white jersey for best young rider and that wasn’t the wardrobe plan.
A month back, the 22 year old Van Garderen casually dropped that his aim was to win the Tour of California. Bold talk that earned a few snickers. Sure the kid was a massive talent. A 3rd overall in the Criterium du Dauphine just to quote a race.
That kind of prediction was part of the bigger story, the changing of the guard, out with the old and in with the new lycra.
There was a lot of talk of shipping Hincapie, Leipheimer and Horner off to the old folks home. Nobody likes to be buried before they’re ready and Horner issued a smack down on stage four’s Sierra road. Horner went up and Van Garderen went down, 12th place and 2 minutes behind.
The kid admitted he made a mistake, went too hard in the heat of battle and blew up. Podium chances over and a half dozen eggs on face. But here’s the thing about Van Garderen: he learns as quickly as he rides up mountains and he’s not afraid to take risks or aim high.
Two days later, he came back with a vengeance at the time trial in Solvang, placing third and beating old man Horner. He was back in the race and people made a mental note about resilience, toughness and dealing with pressure. A bad-ass nice young man, something like that.
In the queen stage, a genuine summit finish on Mount Baldy and the toughest mountain ever torture- tested in the Tour of California, Tejay didn’t blow, leaned from his Sierra Road faux-pedal and rode it hard to the painful end.
He took seventh place, a minute thirty behind Horner and that was solid proof that Van Garderen will be back in contention next year. And when he says he plans to win, he’s not joking.