Montanan takes 4th in opening Tour de France time trialLIEGE, Belgium — Tejay van Garderen lived up to his pre-race billing as one of American cycling's top young talents with an explosive performance on the streets of Liege in the Tour de France's opening time trial.
LIEGE, Belgium — Tejay van Garderen lived up to his pre-race billing as one of American cycling's top young talents with an explosive performance on the streets of Liege in the Tour de France's opening time trial.
The 23-year-old Montana native finished Saturday's 4-mile prologue in fourth place, just 10 seconds behind stage winner and four-time world champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland.
That was good enough to net van Garderen the white jersey, worn by the highest placed rider under the age of 25. It follows up the polka-dotted climber's jersey that van Garderen wore for one stage last year in his first Tour de France.
Van Garderen, who rides for the BMC Racing team of defending Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, couldn't stop smiling after the race.
“I've got chills, I can't wait to get up there and get it,” van Garderen said just before climbing the podium, where he was awarded the race's first white jersey.
Van Garderen is the youngest of the eight US riders competing in this year's Tour de France, and the one who exemplifies what cycling insiders are calling the most promising generation of Americans to ever challenge the sport's best on the roads of Europe.
Van Garderen won the white jersey in this year's week-long Paris-Nice race and Saturday's performance confirms expectations that he's a top contender to win the same honor when the Tour finishes in Paris on July 22. But before then there are 2,168 miles still to go, and van Garderen says keeping the jersey until then is the last of his concerns.
“We've come here with one goal, that's to get Cadel on the top step of the podium in Paris,” van Garderen said. “But anything can happen.”
The last American to win the white jersey was Andy Hampsten in 1986. The only other American to win the honor was Greg Lemond in 1984, two years before he won the first of his three yellow jerseys.
It also puts van Garderen in the exclusive company of previous white jersey winners Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck, each of whom went on to win the coveted yellow jersey.
Van Garderen will be wearing the distinctive jersey Sunday when the race heads out of Liege on the first road stage, a 123-mile ride through the hilly region of southern Belgium known as Wallonia.
The young American says he hopes that his good performance Saturday “means that I'm going to be a strong supporter to Cadel come later in the Tour.” A strong time-trialist, van Garderen is also a very good climber who will be expected to put his own ambitions aside to help pace Evans up the difficult mountain stages in the Alps and Pyrenees later in the race.
Van Garderen said the team, which also includes American veteran George Hincapie, “is in great spirits, they're super relaxed, we're having a bunch of fun.”
The rider says he's “learning a lot” from Evans, a 35-year-old Australian who has finished seven Tours, with one win and two second places.
“In a few years’ time hopefully he can pass the torch,” van Garderen said.