The last time we spoke to Dan Gardner he’d just ridden the 2015 Worlds TTT in Virginia as part of the American Astellas team.
This season saw him back with Astellas for the first part of the season before a mid-season move to the Heartland – Flanders – and a ride with the Baguet Bicycle Center Cycling Academy.
The man behind the team, Serge Baguet is a Belgian ex-professional who rode for Lotto and QuickStep and can count a Belgian Elite Road Championship and Tour de France stage among his palmarès.
And for 2017 things just keep getting better for young Mr. Gardner with a ride for cult Belgo/Irish squad, AN Post.
A VeloVeritas interview must be a sure fire route to Sean Kelly’s squadra – that’s Dan, Connor Hennebry and our own Mark Stewart all been interviewed by VV and riding for the green team in 2017.
We caught up with Dan in late November with the first team get together coming in Calpe in December.
Were the Worlds your last race of 2016?
“Yes, I had a break, came home to England, worked in a pub for a month or two to make some money and then went to prepare for the season in Spain in January and February – after that I headed back to the States.”
You had a nice programme with Astellas…
“Yeah, the Joe Martin and Gila stage races, Philadelphia – the best US programme you can imagine bar the major races like California and Utah.”
Tell us about the USA to Flanders move – pretty dramatic…
“Early in the season we got a call from management to tell us that things weren’t as rosy as we thought with the main sponsor, Astellas – and by June the team had run out of funds to send us to races.
“But it was actually a blessing in disguise for me; I was coming home for the National Champs anyway so after them I headed across the pond to Belgium.
“If you like, I had two seasons in one – the US one then the Belgian one.”
How did you get the Baguet ride?
“I’d been trying to get myself organised with a Belgian team from the States but it’s hard if you’re not actually there, part of it all – you have to get out there.
“I infiltrated a few of the Baguet group rides, spoke to management and got myself aboard.
“It’s a fantastic set up with around 30 riders so it’s a battle to get into the team for the likes of InterClub races.”
And you started to get to get some results, second places on a stage of the Ronde van de Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen and in the GP de la Magne.
“Yeah, I was enjoying it, in the USA you expend so much energy travelling in Belgium you go home to your nest every night and next day you’re fresh as a daisy.
“And I love the time between the races – learning the culture, the language.”
And the David Rayner Fund supported you, again?
“It’s the second season they’ve supported me and without their help it wouldn’t have been possible; they funded my travel to Belgium and accommodation.”
Tell us about the AN Post ride.
“I met Kurt Bogaerts in the summer and it progressed from there – to tell the truth it’s the only team I wanted to be on.
“And it’ll be good to be back riding with Mark Stewart; we were on the same team as juniors.”
Where’s ‘home’ for 2017?
“The AN Post team house in Merchtem; I’ve had plenty of training on the cooking and cleaning from with my time in the States so I’m well prepped!”
How’s the programme looking for next season?
“We have the first team get together in Calpe in December so I guess we’ll be discussing that at that time.
“I think the first camp is about everyone getting to know each other; there’s a strong Irish presence, three Brits, two Dutch and two Canadians on the roster.
“Because of the team having Sean Kelly and Niko Eeckhout and all their contacts they get rides in just about anything they want within the framework of the UCI rules.”
Will you get your new bike and kit in December?
“I think that’s more likely to be at the second camp in January, I’ve sent all my measurements away for my bike – the team will be on Vitus again for 2017.”
Will you continue to be coached by Alan Denman at Project 51 or does the team take over your coaching?
“Niko is team coach but I have little doubt that Alan will still make a huge contribution – I speak to him every week.”
What’s the biggest difference between racing in the US and Belgium?
“Those technical crits I rode in the States are good preparation for the kermises.
“The thing about the kermises is that it’s not always the strongest rider who wins – you have to use you head so much.
“When I first arrived in Belgium I was still riding in my Astellas colours so had to start in the pro kermises where I was racing like a junior – too aggressive, too early but then I realised that the distances are a lot longer and I had to adopt a more sensible approach.
“But the kermises are great preparation for the bigger road races – I was riding out to them then riding back, clocking up 200 kilometre days.”
What’s 2017 about?
“I have a tendency to get to excited and do too much too soon so I’m just going to do my training day to day, ride the races, take in the advice from Kurt and Nico – and Sean too, if I’m lucky – and take it one race at a time.”
VeloVeritas will have no shortage of ‘insiders’ at AN Post for season 2017 then – we’ll keep you posted.