Tejay van Garderen on the podium at the Tour of California 2013, with his daughter Rylan
Last week, the St. Helena Star posted an article titled, "My Turn: The Mark of a True Champion" by David Stoneberg, a piece that directly linked our friends Teresa D'Aurizio and Dustin Moilanen of ZD Wines, with our friend Tejay van Garderen of Team BMC. Ever since we first met Tejay, through his wife Jessica Phillips (who last year organized the Blue Ribbon Alpine Challenge that we co-sponsored with Blue Ribbon), we've been in awe of his performance as a world-class, up-and-coming, professional cyclist. Well, those days of "up-and-coming" have come and gone, because last month he took 1st in the Amgen Tour of California, which is sponsored by ZD Wines, an organic winery in Rutherford, California.
As the featured story illustrated, Tejay is not only a phenomenal athlete, placing 5th overall in last year's Tour de France, while taking 1st in the Best Young Rider Classification, but he is also a rider who digs deep when to comes to matters of heart and humanity. At a time when professional cyclists have been succumbing to accusations of doping, like fruit flies on an uncorked bottle of wine, Tejay stands at the forefront, representing a new class of cyclists who are riding clean and legal.
Tejay & Jessica
On the last day of the race at the Tour of California, Teresa stood at the finish talking to a host of spectators, when she met Manny Perez (20) and his parents. Diagnosed with cancer ten years ago, Manny's condition had since become terminal. As a huge fan of cycling, he and his parents had been following the Tour of California for the past eight days, when he and Teresa got to talking. As she learned of Manny's situation, she reached out to Dustin who was standing at the podium, to see if they could do something to enhance Manny's enjoyment of the event.
Dustin Moilanen & Teresa D'Aurizio of ZD Wines
Before being led through to the Green Room, where the athletes were being interviewed by the press, Manny followed Dustin to meet Bob Roll, just moments before he was introduced to Tejay van Garderen. When Tejay learned of Manny's condition and devotion to cycling, he took off his yellow jersey, signed it and gave it to Manny, who then had the leader's jersey professionally framed and hung on his wall.
Tejay's yellow jersey, hanging on the wall of Manny's room
Of the experience, Manny wrote to Dustin:
"About the Tour of California, words cannot explain how grateful I am to you and the folks at ZD Winery for everything you did in Santa Rosa. That was truly an amazing day and it still seems so unreal. It means the world to me for all that you guys made happen for me and my family. You should have seen how happy that [action] made my mom – to see me that happy and that in itself, was priceless. I cannot thank you enough for your generosity."
Dustin on the other hand, shines a light on Tejay:
"In regards to the experience with Manny," he writes, "all of the credit goes to Tejay. There were only a handful of us who saw what he did in that Green Room...thousands outside missed out, but in my mind that showed what a true champion he really is...doing the right thing when nobody is looking. I was just happy to be able to facilitate the meeting and honestly, with all of the successes we enjoyed over the week in terms of exposure for ZD, personally, this was the best part of my week by miles."
We offer both congratulations to Tejay and a big thanks to he and our friends at ZD Winery, who have been an official partner of the Amgen Tour of California for three years. With this year's Tour de France starting Saturday on June 29th, we wish Tejay an awesome and safe ride. We have no doubt that this champion will finish strong.