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Van Garderen: 'With Froome being out and Thomas having questionable form there’s no clear cut favourite'

Joe Robinson
3 Jul 2019

The 'strongest Education First Tour team' ever look forward with high hopes to GC contention

The absence of Chris Froome and questionable form of defending champion Geraint Thomas has led Tejay van Garderen to see this as teammate Rigoberto Uran’s best ever opportunity to win the Tour de France.

Talking at the Education First press conference in Brussels ahead of the Tour de France Grand Depart on Saturday, the American seemed confident in his team’s chances of taking a surprise win with the lack of no clear favourite among their rivals. 

When asked whether the absence of a clear front runner would produce a surprise winner, Van Garderen replied, ‘Yeah, I think you’re right with Froome being out injured and Thomas having questionable form with his crash at the Tour de Suisse so I think there’s no clear cut favourite.'

Van Garderen also noted the form of recent Criterium du Dauphine winner Jakob Fuglsang, calling him a threat but also pointed out the Dane's lack of results in three-week races and that Uran was as good as any rival on his day.

Uran finished second overall at the Tour in 2017, just 47 seconds down on eventual winner Froome. While that result was considered a surprise it has now led him to be considered among the riders most likely to trouble the podium.

Uran also lives at 2,500m above sea level and still trains in his native Colombia, which you would consider a clear benefit to the 32-year-old as this year's Tour has been labelled 'the highest ever' with multiple ascents of over 2,000m in altitude thanks to visits to the Col d'Iseran and Col du Galibier amongst others.

While Uran believes this was once an advantage and suits his style of racing, he also recognises that it is no longer the bonus it once was.

'Obviously, I was born and live at altitude, I like altitude so I like it when the stages are super hard,' said Uran. 'But, now you see everybody is training at altitude, and everyone is going to altitude training camps so I no longer have that advantage.' 

While Uran will be the designated team leader come the race start on Saturday, Van Garderen's previous experience of a top five Tour finish and recent good form following his second overall at the Criterium du Dauphine have also left him to consider his own options.

'We’re coming here with the objective of Rigo being our number one guy but whenever you pin on a number and start a bike race anything is possible, so we’re all showing up ready to take our chance each day and see what we can do,' Van Garderen added.

Either way, entering the race with what team manager Jonathan Vaughters believes is his 'strongest Tour team ever', the Education First squad seem to be in a stronger position to contest the race win than when they guided Uran to second two years ago.