Plumelec - Tejay Van Garderen said he was sick to tears of hearing talk of
the "fantastic four" as he completed the first week of the Tour de
France in second place.
The 26-year-old American is just 12sec behind race leader Chris Froome as
his BMC team edged out the Briton's Sky squad by just one second in Sunday's
And while the rest of Froome's 'fantastic four' rivals have all faltered at
one stage or another, Van Garderen has been consistently strong, beating Froome
by 8sec in the opening stage time-trial before giving up 11sec to the 2013
champion in the third stage finish on the Mur de Huy - in which the Briton also
took a 6sec time bonus.
Yet the likes of reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali, two-time winner Alberto
Contador and Colombian climber Nairo Quintana are all between one minute and
almost two and a half minutes off Froome after nine stages.
"Those guys have that tag as the fab four, which is getting a little
irritating hearing," admitted Van Garderen.
"I'm not offended not to be in that because all those guys in the fab
four have won Grand Tours. I've had top fives but I'm yet to finish on a podium
or win one.
"If I'm not spoken about as much as those guys I'm not offended but it
doesn't mean I'm intimidated by them or not going to race them.
"The press can say what they want but that doesn't matter to how things
go on the road."
Contador, the champion in 2007 and 2009, is the closest of the fantastic
four at 1min 03sec and he seemed relatively happy with how the first week had
The 32-year-old Spaniard beat Froome to win the Vuelta a Espana last year,
twice accelerating away from the Briton in the final kilometre to win summit
"Now we'll have the mountains and we'll see how we manage or whether we
have good legs," he said.
"This is a Tour where anything can happen, there are a lot of mountain
stages and if we can be consistent that will suit me."
Nairo Quintana is at 1min 59sec but was pleased his Movistar team only gave
up a few seconds on the winners in the team time-trial.
"I hope to recover the time I lost at the beginning of the Tour,"
"We wanted to go very fast and it was a good test of what shape we're
in, it's a good team."
Nibali is the worst off after his Astana outfit finished fifth at 35sec from
He's now 13th at 2min 22sec, but he remains positive.
"For the climbers, the Tour starts now. I'm confident, I think
yesterday (Saturday) was a one-off. I was a bit blocked, I don't know why
because I'm in good form," said the Italian.
Froome, though, has been delighted with his Tour so far and said it is now
up to his rivals to take the race to him.
"This first phase of the race has gone better than any of us could have
imagined on the team," he said.
"It's one thing not to lose time to your rivals but to gain substantial
amounts of time on a lot of contenders, it really puts us in a strong position
for this next phase."
The 30-year-old Kenyan-born Briton added: "The pressure is not on my
shoulders to make the race and take time back on anyone.
"The pressure is on the other guys to take time back on us and it
allows us to ride a defensive race."