Sitting in the top three of the Tour de France since stage nine, Tejay van Garderen is now coming to terms with the collapse of his campaign for a podium finish in Paris.
“To be fighting for a podium in the Tour de France, and then the next minute you are sitting in the car, was really hard,” van Garderen said on Wednesday evening. “It was hard to look my teammates in the eyes. It was hard to call my wife and explain to her what was going on. It was a lot of emotions.”
Van Garderen moved up to second overall when his BMC Racing Team won the stage nine team time trial. He then remained in that slot until the end of stage 14, when he moved to third overall.
Having twice placed fifth in the race, he said before this year’s edition that he was convinced he could finish on the podium.
“I believe on any given day I can beat those guys [Froome, Contador, Quintana and Nibali – ed]. I have shown already that I have beaten them before.”
He accepted that to finish on the podium he’d have to beat two out of the four of those riders; he was on course to do that until his withdrawal, although he would have needed to have climbed well in the Alps to succeed.
Van Garderen has actually been fighting a cold for several days. His team stated today that he became ill after stage 13.
“For a while I was dealing with it just fine,” he said. “It was just a little bit of the sniffles and not a big deal. But it kept getting a little bit worse. Then, on the rest day (Tuesday), I was having some feverish symptoms and chills.
“This morning, I woke up and thought the worst of it had passed. I felt ready to race and was back, closer to normal. But then once I got out there, the muscles just had no energy. Straight away from the start, I kind of knew this wasn’t good and hopefully I could just hide and maybe ride into it for a few kilometres and start to feel better. But the sensations never came. It is hugely disappointing.”
He first lost contact on the climb of the Col de Toutes Aures, located about 50 kilometers into the stage. Other BMC Racing Team riders helped him to chase back on, but the lead group splintered once more and he was again out the back.
He finally gave up 70 kilometres from the finish.
The team’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Max Testa said that the team had tried to remain optimistic, but that the issue made it impossible to continue.
“We were hoping by the rest day, he would have gotten over it,” he stated. “Today was very hard at the start. So the combination and the fatigue that he built up in the previous days cost him the race.”
BMC Racing Team President/General Manager Jim Ochowicz said that the team will reset its targets and try to follow up on the team time trial win plus Greg van Avermaet’s triumph on stage 13.
“There are still four big days in the Tour de France ahead of us. We are not going away,” he said. “We are going to be fighting tomorrow for something new. So we will carry on until Paris.”