The consensus before the start of the Tour of Missouri was that the winner of the individual time trial would take the overall classification, and this is exactly what happened. But, Christian Vande Velde and his inexperienced Garmin-Chipotle team had to survive all attacks thrown at them by team Columbia and control a very aggrressive race where all riders were trying to go into breaks and go for a stage win.
After two days on onslaught, at the end of stage 6, Vande Velde was still in the leader’s jersey and he spoke to the press on the eve of the final stage and claiming the overall win.
Take us through the last couple of days, give us a little perspective on the teamwork you’ve had and obviously the conditions, it hasn’t been an easy race with the speeds.
Christian: Like I said before, the team has grown tenfold with this week and gained a lot of experience, some of the guys have never ridden in defense of a leader’s jersey ever before so it’s been a great growing experience for Gamin-Chipotle to see the least. We’ve had a lot of competition this week, it hasn’t been easy, the speed’s been incredibly high, it’s been a great race so far.
Anybody on the team that’s particularly stood out?
Christian: I never like to single anybody out but today [stage 6] Steven Cozza, it was the first time he’s ever ridden on the front like that, he was spectacular from start to finish and when the split happened in the crosswinds when Columbia threw it down, he was still there, that impressed me today. But everybody, from Dan Holloway who is a stagiaire with the team to Steven, Danny Pate, everyone has done a great job, we’ve put a lot of great professionals this week with Michael Rodgers and George Hincapie.
What would you anticipating today [stage 6]?
Christian: I just knew that they would throw everything at us, like usual, and we just had to wait until the correct combination and try to get those guys off the front, let them go and let the gap go. I think we got better and better at doing that and today was a great day for that.
Are you being treated differently by the other riders since your return from the Tour de France?
Christian: Not too much. I’ve been around a long time and all my friends are still the same friend. It’s more some of the younger guys looking up and saying ‘wow’, but no, and I’m glad I’m not treated any differently.
Given the success you’ve had this season, will there be any changes to your training schedule?
Christian: No, I’m not going train too much differently. I’m not going to change everything, I’m not going to look at myself like ‘oh I’m a GC tour contender and I’m going to change everything’ and act like a different person, I think a lot of things worked this year and I’m going to stick to that path.
Do you see a way you can improve for next season?
Christian: There’s definitely some things I will improve on, those are all the things, that’s what you can improve on the off season, it’s really hard to improve on those things during the season when you’re consistently putting your body under stress.
Was there a point this year that you knew you were a leader and could do the job, was there a point where it clicked in for you?
Christian: During the Giro this year, I had the leader’s jersey and some things definitely started to click, I was at the front a lot, raced quite aggressively that first week and my mentality started to change a little bit. Even in a smaller sense, the Circuit de la Sarthe, it wasn’t a huge race, still you had to race pretty aggressive.
Was this Tour something that Garmin needed to take the next step?
Christian: It’s a big stepping stone. People have been saying a lot lately that Garmin and before that Slipstream have been bridesmaids many time, winning is a completely different thing, the way you have to present yourself, the way you have to think about the race and the way that everyone approaches you, they want to take you off the top, it’s a big step for sure.
Especially against Columbia, they were throwing big bombs at you.
Christian: Big bombs. It couldn’t come at a better time too within earshot of Garmin’s HQ in Kansas so it’s been a neat week.
I know it might be a little premature to ask this, but what about coming back next year?
Christian: No, for sure , this is a perfect way for me to end my season, I’m not far from home, it’s in the Midwest. It’s a long season, I spend some much time every year for seven years away from hie, I never imagine that I’d get to race a nice big stage race within five hours drive of my hometown. Itt’s pretty cool to be racing in the Tour of Missouri like that. But yes, I will be back if my schedule allows, and it will allow it.