Nearly 10 minutes after the post-race press conference started, with the rest of the honorees and dignitaries already answering questions at a dais in a conference room at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel, Tejay van Garderen wheeled into the room on his bicycle.
It was the first time all week that van Garderen brought up the rear.
The 24-year-old American cyclist capped the eight-day, 729-mile Amgen Tour of California by finishing in the main peloton Sunday, garnering the same time as stage winner Peter Sagan of Cannondale and wrapping up a race title that almost looked easy. Nobody had won the Tour of California by more than 50 seconds in seven previous incarnations. Van Garderen finished 1 minute, 47 seconds ahead of second-place Michael Rogers of Saxo-Tinkoff. Javier Alexis Acevedo of Jamis-Hagens Berman was third, a distant 3:26 behind the winner.
“Everything just finally came together,” said van Garderen, the youngest winner of this race. “I've known for years that I've been capable of riding like this, and to finally put it all into place, it's really special.”
The biggest accomplishment of van Garderen's career was also a watershed moment for his team. While he was winning the individual general classification, BMC Racing was claiming the team general classification. For a squad based right here, there was no better way to finish the Tour of California than to ride into downtown Santa Rosa as a winner.
True, BMC is Swiss-owned, and the BMC cyclists are far-flung. They did not train here for the Amgen Tour, and van Garderen, for one, admitted that he didn't know the Sonoma County roads very well. Other BMC riders are more locally oriented, though, and chief operating officer Gavin Chilcott is a Santa Rosa native. The team has held training camps here in the past. BMC's offices are in Santa Rosa.
“This is our base, and I'm proud of it,” BMC president Jim Ochowicz said.