PADECKY: Youthful star brings hope to troubled sport

  • The peloton races along the Pacific coast along Highway 1 during Stage Eight of the Amgen Tour of California from San Francisco to Santa Rosa on Sunday, May 19, 2013. 24-year-old American Tejay van Garderen of the BMC Racing team, third from the right, went on to win his first Amgen Tour of California. (CONNER JAY / The Press Democrat)

Someone to believe in. That's what professional cycling needs. Someone to believe in without hesitation, to applaud beyond a shadow of a doubt. Someone to lift the sport above the rubble of the 2012 drug disclosures. Someone with a future who doesn't have the USADA hounds nipping at his backside. Someone like Tejay van Garderen.

Van Garderen won the 2013 Tour of California Sunday and if there is a prototype for The Next Face Of Cycling, the 24-year old from Bozeman, Mont., offers the entire package.

The sport needs someone who is talented.

“Most important is his physical capabilities,” said van Garderen's boss, BMC team manager Jim Ochowicz. “Tejay has all those ingredients. He can climb. He can time trial. He is not intimidated in the flats when he is challenged.”

The sport needs someone who has a view beyond his nose.

On the podium Sunday van Garderen held his five-week old baby girl, Rylan.

“I'm showing her off because I am supporting a charitable baby clothes organization,” van Garderen said. “Go to bumsies.org.”

The sport needs someone who dares not to repeat cycling's past.

“Cycling has done a great job of cleaning itself up,” van Garderen said. “And it's our (young riders) responsibility to keep it that way.”

The sport needs someone not afraid to be a leader.

“Sometimes it can be hard or intimidating to tell someone a lot older than you, who is a World Champion, to take the lead in a race, to run up front for the team,” van Garderen said. “But I'm getting better at it.”

Van Garderen is referring to BMC teammate Thor Hushovd, 35, a 14-time stage winner in the Classics, including 10 stages at the Tour de France.

OK, so van Garderen is still working on being the leader. Fact is, as the sport searches for a kinder, gentler, more compassionate face than Lance Armstrong to lead it, a 24-year old on the cusp of a potentially memorable career need not have all the elements.

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