American Tejay van Garderen will join the EF Pro Cycling organization in 2019, adding an accomplished climber and time trialist to the squad.
"I’m looking forward to being a part of ‘America's’ team,’’ van Garderen said. “I’m certainly not a young rider anymore, but I’m still way too young to be put out to pasture. I’ve had some good results, some ups and downs, and I’m still interested in exploring the capacity of what I have to give, however that translates. Whether it’s helping a teammate or grabbing results for myself. Whether it’s grand tours or one-week stage races. I still think there’s a lot more I can offer."
Van Garderen, 29, has been professional since 2008, riding for the Rabobank development team, the HTC franchise, and most recently with BMC Racing, where he spent the 2012 - 2018 seasons.
“I think it was a necessary thing to do,” van Garderen said of his change in teams. “I’m definitely going to look back on my years on BMC positively. I’ve accomplished a lot with that team. But at a certain point sometimes you just need a fresh environment, fresh faces, some new ideas.”
Some of those new ideas will take shape over the offseason, when management and van Garderen begin to talk race calendar, goals, and general approach.
“This is a new chapter. Maybe even a new book,” said EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “Tejay exhibited incredible potential in his younger years. He’s been riding under very high pressure for years as he was pegged as America’s next great cyclist. That’s been tough billing to live up to, and it would have been for anyone.
"I worked with Tejay when he was a junior. I met him when he was 14 and had won the Cat. 3 race up [Colorado’s] Mt. Evans. I feel like he makes a lot of sense for this team. I think we can get the best out of him using an approach that gets him back to thinking about bike racing as fun as opposed to shouldering the weight of being the next great hope in American cycling.”
The American has 15 professional wins to his name and a string of very strong GC results to boot. He’s twice finished fifth overall at the Tour de France (2012, 2014), and won the Tour of California (2013) and USA Pro Cycling Challenge twice (2013, 2014). He has won stages at the Giro, Tour de Suisse, and Volta Catalunya. Despite these successes, there was a feeling that something needed to change as the American moved into the second phase of his career.
Vaughters and van Garderen both pointed toward Ryder Hesjedal and Christian Vande Velde, in addition to current team rider Rigoberto Uran, as riders who’ve flourished with the argyle organization later in their careers.
“We’ve shown a long and successful history of taking underrated riders later in their careers and pulling out the best of them in the second half of their careers,” Vaughters said. “Hopefully we’re able to do that with Tejay, too, using a fun, grounded approach toward racing.”
For van Garderen, a fresh perspective was necessary.
“Especially now going into the post-30, or the second part of my career. You see that a lot — sometimes people come out hot early in their career, then have a bit of a lull, then they revive," said van Garderen. "You see that a lot with Slipstream riders. I think a fresh environment can spark a motivation that you might not have known was there.”
There has been a degree of expectation all along for van Garderen, that certainly comes with the territory of a white jersey at the Tour. But there’s a seasoning that comes with those campaigns of ups and downs as well.
“It’s all part of the journey and the process. It’s super rewarding to see improvements in yourself. To be able to win a race and get up on the podium, there’s really no feeling like that,” van Garderen said. “And besides accolades — I was riding with Alex Howes the other day on the Peak to Peak and we saw a moose. That’s a small thing, but you’ve got to take time appreciate that, too. We’re out riding our bikes in these beautiful places."
And what does he think of joining the EF Pro Cycling cast of characters?
“There’s a lot of big personalities on the team. It’s fun to watch, it’s fun to spectate the team for that reason,” he said. “I think it’ll be good for me to put myself out there and have a little bit more fun with it.”
EF EDUCATION FIRST - DRAPAC P/B CANNONDALE