The Bozeman, Montana-raised cyclist, who placed fifth in the Tour de France in both 2012 and 2014, has his present sights set on California. The AMGEN Tour of California kicks off on May 13, 2018, in Long Beach, with the seven-day stage race finishing in Sacramento. It’s van Garderen’s first return to the race since he won it in 2013. To celebrate Swisse Wellness’ new role as the BMC Racing Team’s official wellness partner, we caught up with Tejay just prior to the race’s start.
Tejay with Oliver Horn, Managing Director of Swisse Wellness
How did you get into cycling?
I have a European dad who’s a big fan and club racer, so he sparked my interest. It was also right around the time that Lance was winning all his tours, so cycling was booming in the U.S. I caught the bug.
You’ve been a pro for 10 years and part of the BMC Team since 2012. Any tips for maintaining strength and longevity as an athlete?
You have to be able to care of your body and yourself — not just during the season but also out of the season. It’s about being diligent in regard to the off-the-bike work, like core work, body work and massage — all of that can help with the longevity of your career.
What are your goals these days in regard to BMC and racing?
My goal has never really changed — it’s to win races. The races I have my eye on most are the GC stages. I want to finish as high up in any stage race as I can and win as many as I can.
Do you have a favorite race?
I think of the Dauphiné 2015. I didn’t win it — I finished second, but in my mind that race stands out as a race that went perfectly for me. There was nothing else I could have done to have won that race. There a lot of other races where I might have even won, but I thought I had made a mistake, I could have won by more, knew or done better. That was one race where things seem to have gone according to plan.
You won the Tour of California in 2013. Does this race have any special meaning to you?
Absolutely. The Tour of California 2013 was my first stage race GC victory as a professional. I was a new dad, and I brought my 6-week-old daughter on to the podium with me — so definitely very special memories of this race.
What are you most looking forward to in regard to the Tour of California?
I haven’t been able to race in the U.S. since 2014 in the pro challenge, so to be able to race in front of a home crowd. I am sure I will be hearing my name yelled out on the side of the road quite a bit, so that’s something to look forward to. Hopefully, we can take another victory. That would be really special after a five-year hiatus from this race. It would be really cool to come back and get back on that podium.
What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
I guess I’d have to say it was the Tour de France 2012 when I won the white jersey and finished fifth place.
What is your philosophy when it comes to racing and staying healthy?
You get out of it what you put into it. If you put in the work, put in healthy food into your body and the time and effort into training, then you are going to get rewarded. If you keep doing the correct things, you are going to get rewarded.
You’re known for time trialing and your climbing abilities — to what do you credit your skill in both of those areas?
I guess these are the gifts I have been given. Some people are bigger, more muscular or more built for sprint finishes. I’ve been more of an endurance, long, steady, power kind of rider, which is good for GC races, climbing and time trials.
As an elite athlete, how do you integrate Swisse Wellness products into your regimen?
There are definitely a lot of Swisse products that have been very useful — in particular Calcium + Vitamin D for bone and joint health and Men’s Ultivite multivitamin to help maintain energy levels and mental alertness.
What is your greatest challenge as a cyclist?
I’d say having a family life and being a pro cyclist. It’s a lot of travel and it’s a lot of away time. Sometimes you miss some birthdays and holidays, but in the end. the sacrifice is worth it. My family is always very understanding.
How do you stay mentally focused?
A lot of the time, it’s not a chore to stay mentally focused because it’s something you love to do. It’s not so much a grind to get out on the bike, as you get to be on the bike all day. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.
When you are not on your bike, what are your other passions?
Outside of cycling, I love NBA basketball. The story lines and plot line, the stars and their athleticism — it’s something I really admire. And also football. I like the Denver Broncos. I don’t follow it like the NBA, but those are some passions of mine.
Are you still into mountain biking in the off season?
Yes, I love to mountain bike. It’s a great way to stay in shape but have a little bit more fun and be more adventurous.
Swisse champions happiness and wellbeing. How do you celebrate life?
Just by enjoying the moment. I have two kids, so there are a lot of firsts that I get to see. If there’s a bike race that goes well, you have to take the time to acknowledge and celebrate it. It’s also just being where you are.
I’m super excited about making a return to the AMGEN Tour of California, as the 2013 edition was a special memory for me. The course is demanding, but we have a strong team and we will go into the race with big goals.
Journalist Ann Wycoff has written about wellness, fitness, longevity, travel, spas, food and wine for the past 20 years for magazines like Shape, Fitness, Spa, Outside, Travel + Leisure, Coastal Living, Redbook, Modern Luxury, San Diego Magazine, Redbook, Marin Magazine and more. She lives in Encinitas, California.