Champ looks down the road

05/20/2013 12:00 AM

05/21/2013 9:49 PM

SANTA ROSA – Tejay van Garderen rode his sleek, black BMC bicycle into a hotel conference room Sunday to meet with reporters after winning the Amgen Tour of California.

He's a man on the move.

Van Garderen, 24, emerged as the biggest story of the 2013 Tour that ended with Peter Sagan's dramatic sprint victory in downtown Santa Rosa.

Cannondale's Sagan won his third consecutive green jersey at the Tour to solidify his place as one of the world's top sprinters. He finished the route in 3 hours, 4 minutes, 7 seconds, followed by Daniel Schorn of Austria and Tyler Farrar of Wenatchee, Wash.

Van Garderen, who grew up in Bozeman, Mont., has set his sights on more yellow jerseys after dominating the eight-stage Tour to snare the first major victory of his budding career.

When will he be ready to win the world's most prestigious race, the Tour de France?

"Six weeks," van Garderen said of the Tour that begins in July.

Now that's confidence. But that's something the BMC star has in abundance after completing the 750-mile California course, which went south to north for the first time, in 29 hours, 43 minutes.

Australian Michael Rogers of Saxo-Tinkoff was second, 1:47 behind, with Colombian Janier Acevedo of Jamis-Hagens Berman 3:26 back in third.

The scenic 80.7-mile stage from San Francisco to Santa Rosa was a coronation after van Garderen pretty much won the title Friday with a victory in the individual time trial in San Jose.

But his first yellow jersey represented more than just a trophy. Van Garderen grew up while navigating the California roads the past eight days.

"I've known for years I've been capable of a ride like this," he said after carefully setting his bike aside. "I started to get worried I didn't have what it takes to get a stage victory. I can go into every race now a little less stressed. Sometimes if you loosen your grip, you perform better."

BMC team manager Jim Ochowicz of Palo Alto was impressed with the way his rider handled a veteran group as its leader.

"Sometimes it can be hard or intimidating to tell guys what to do, especially if they are decorated veterans," van Garderen said. "The team showed they are comfortable with that and that is what they expect of me."

It's what many in U.S. cycling have been waiting to hear.

"At 15, 16 years old, everybody in U.S. development knew he was the next great talent," said Champion System's Ed Beamon, who has run pro teams for two decades.

As much as everyone celebrated van Garderen's big week, Ochowicz, an Olympian who formerly was the president of USA Cycling, looked ahead.

Winning the Tour of California was nice, but "it's about the next 10 years," he said.

Many say the next wave of Americans is close to bursting on the scene, including Texan Lawson Craddock, 21, who won the best young rider jersey Sunday. Van Garderen showed what's possible in a breakthrough year that included welcoming his first child, daughter Rylan, last month.

Van Garderen thought he was going to miss the delivery when his wife, Jessica, went into labor early while he competed in northern Spain. Van Garderen flew home to Colorado to reach the hospital with an hour to spare.


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