Cyclist Tejay van Garderen packs bags, moves from Aspen to Spain

BMC's Tejay Van Garderen competes in the USA Pro Challenge. Van Garderen, who has lived in Aspen in recent years, moved to Spain fulltime to train.
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Of all people, it was Tejay van Garderen’s wife, Jessica Phillips, who suggested they move. It was surprising because Phillips, a former professional cyclist, grew up in Aspen and it was a place the couple enjoyed immensely.

“It was her idea, actually. I was pretty shocked when she brought it up,” Van Garderen said. “It’s tough to leave Aspen, but I think it’s the right move.”

Van Garderen, who has lived in Aspen on and off since the couple married in 2011, is a Washington native and professional cyclist with the BMC Racing Team. At 29, he still feels he has a good six or seven years left in his career and is committed to making the most of it. Part of that plan meant moving permanently to Girona, Spain.

“All the races I do throughout the season are in Europe anyways, so I spend eight months out of the year overseas,” Van Garderen said. “So it doesn’t make too big of a difference for me. It helps the girls not have to travel back and forth and it saves a little bit of travel for me.”

Van Garderen, Phillips and their two daughters — ages 4 and 1 — are officially residents of Spain as of the first of this year. They held a silent auction at the Limelight Lodge in Aspen last month, both as a way to unload some unnecessary gear and to raise money for some of their favorite local organizations, such as Roaring Fork Cycling, Aspen Cycling Club and Crown Mountain BMX.

“It’s nice to get a little closure on the town and also to be able to leave our mark by being able to help out with these organizations,” Van Garderen said.

Their new home, Girona, has long been a popular landing spot for professional cyclists. It is located in northeast Spain, not far from Barcelona.

“There’s just a good community of cyclists there,” Van Garderen said. “People we already know. The weather is good, the travel is good, and there are good roads for riding. Basically, it’s just the community there that we can kind of establish ourselves, get the kids enrolled in school and have a little help doing it.”

Van Garderen is in his contract year with BMC and doesn’t know what the future will hold after this season. His most notable career wins came here in Colorado at the 2013 and 2014 USA Pro Cycling Challenge, now defunct. He also won the 2013 Tour of California.

While the 2017 season had its ups and downs for van Garderen, it did include his first individual stage win at a Grand Tour, coming in the Dolomites during the Giro d’Italia. He’s competed in the Tour de France six times, finishing fifth in the general classification twice, although he did sit out the 2017 race.

He said the 2018 Tour de France, held in July, is the primary focus for his upcoming season.

“Last year was an OK year. I wouldn’t call it my best season, but it certainly wasn’t the worst,” Van Garderen said. “I feel like I’m on an upward trajectory right now. As far as goals I want to accomplish, I don’t know. I just want to go to every race I enter and go to win. I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished in my career, but I’m certainly capable of more.”

Plenty of unknown lies in van Garderen’s future, such as whether or not he returns to BMC in 2019. His plan is to live with his family in Spain until the end of his career, but has no idea what will happen after that. A return to Aspen isn’t out of the equation, but it’s too far into the future to forecast accurately.

“It’s going to be a hectic lifestyle for the remainder of my career, but we kind of chose a hectic lifestyle,” Van Garderen said. “Right now we have plans basically until the end of my career, which is to stay in Girona. After that we have no idea. Who knows? Time will tell.”