The Roar
The Roar


Can Van Garderen make the Tour de France podium?

Christophe Riblon for AG2R. (Image: Sky).
8th July, 2015

There is a saying in sport that a week is a long time in football. If that is true, then a year in the world of pro-cycling must be an eternity.

By this time last year Vincenzo Nibali had already stamped his authority on the Tour de France, having won a stage and put the other general classification contenders to the sword over the cobbles of northern France.

Chris Froome on the other hand had suffered multiple crashes, lost heaps of time and abandoned the race.

Oh, how the pendulum swings!

The 2015 Froome is a much better model than the nervous and flighty version we saw in 2014. A confident attack up the Mur de Huy at the end of Stage 3 left his main rivals pedalling squares and snared him an early fitting of the yellow jersey.

It was a beating of the chest that wouldn’t have gone unnoticed by the other general classification riders.

But perhaps of more significance was the fact that he survived the wind induced splits in the peloton on Stage 2 and conquered the cobbles without losing time on Stage 4.

It shows that Froome has his confidence back and will not be intimidated by conditions or foe alike.


Nibali is an all together different story, looking sluggish and uncompetitive.

He lost time when the echelons formed in Stage 2, which is a cardinal sin for someone of his standing and experience. Instead of lauding his racing nouse post-stage we were left questioning his positioning and attentiveness.

That wouldn’t have happened last year.

His inability to go with Froome and Joaquim Rodriguez on the Mur de Huy is also cause for concern, although he wasn’t the only one left struggling in their wake.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised as his form all year has been less than steller.

He was more aggressive on the cobbles of Stage 4, but with a group of contenders better prepared for the rigours ahead of them and improved weather and conditions, he was unable to decimate the field as he did in the corresponding stage last year.

As a result, the ‘Shark of Messina’ finds himself 1:38 behind Froome and 1:02 behind Contador (to the end of Stage 4). Of the so called ‘Big Four’ contenders, only Nairo Quintana has had a more tardy start, trailing Froome by almost two minutes.


When analysing who sits where on general classification, it is a useful exercise to strip back the leaders table until it only includes those who are actually contenders (or those who went into the race thinking they were contenders).

If we do that and adjust everyone’s times to reflect their position in relation to Froome, the new leader board (to the end of Stage 4) would look like this:

1. Chris Froome
2. Tejay Van Garderen – 13″
3. Rigoberto Uran – 34″
4. Alberto Contador – 36″
5. Bauke Mollema – 1:32
6. Vincenzo Nibali – 1:38
7. Robert Gesink – 1:39
8. Alejandro Valverde – 1:51
9. Nairo Quintana – 1:56
10. Joaquim Rodriguez – 2:00
11. JC Peraud – 2:07
12. Andrew Talansky – 2:39
13. Romain Bardet – 2:54
14. Thibaut Pinot – 6:18
15. Michal Kwiatkowski – 7:55
16. Ryder Hesjedal – 9:35

There is a long way to go of course and the race is yet to hit the high mountains where minutes can be lost if a rider blows up, but the poor starts by both Nibali and Quintana must give Tejay van Garderen extra hope that he can hold onto a podium position.

The American has already had high finishes at the Tour. In 2012 and 2014 he was fifth overall so he knows how to ride. And yet his speciality seems to be defending or minimising losses rather than launching an outright attack.

It is important then that he gains as much of a buffer as possible heading into the climbing stages.

That is why the team time trial in Stage 9 will be a real boon for the 26-year-old with his BMC team being the current world champions against the clock. Even at just 28 kilometres long, the TTT should provide a real chance for Van Garderen to pinch more time from his rivals before the race kicks up into the mountains.


The stars are aligning for Van Garderen, and although I don’t think he can win the Tour, the opportunity is there to burst free of former teammate Cadel Evans’ shadow and claim a spot on the podium.

Rigoberto Uran must be pleased with how things have worked out as well. After a lacklustre Giro d’Italia, the long haired Colombian will be looking for a high finish, and may well fight it out for a podium position with Van Garderen.

Contador, just two seconds adrift of Uran on general classification, should be able to climb his way back into contention. ‘El Pistolero’ showed his climbing class on Stage 16 of this year’s Giro d’Italia when he singlehandedly took on rival team Astana, weaving his way around rider after rider as he pushed his way ever upward after being distanced earlier because of a mechanical.

It was a stark reminder of what the Spaniard is capable of and if the Giro didn’t take too much out of his legs, you would expect him to improve his position on general classification.

Of the others, Quintana seems to be the one most capable of overcoming his deficit. Although it stands at almost two minutes, he is a supreme climber, and if any of the other GC aspirants have a bad day then he will pounce.

Despite Froome’s early form, the race is far from over. It is delicately balanced in favour of the Team Sky rider, but with the challenge of making up time falling on the shoulders of some ambitious challengers we could be in for a classic contest.

Pushed for a top three prediction at this early stage of the race I would go for Froome ahead of Contador and Van Garderen.


But as we know anything can happen in bike racing. An untimely mechanical, a careless fall, an illness or a loss of form can all change the shape of a race in a heartbeat.

What do my fellow Roarers think? Care to make some predictions?