Andrew Talansky's withdrawal from the Tour of California before the halfway point of stage 1 on Sunday caught most of the peloton by surprise. The California resident said at the pre-race press conference two days earlier that he was excited and ready for his "home" race.
But Cannondale-Garmin team doctor Prentice Steffen told Cyclingnews after the stage that Talansky was suffering from a combination of allergies and an upper respiratory infection. Steffen said Talansky started showing symptoms that something was wrong Saturday evening.
"I think probably everybody has had the experience of, 'Is it allergies, is it a cold? I don't know yet, I hope it's allergies but I'm a little nervous it's a cold virus,'" Steffen said. "We hedged or bets and tried to give him treatment for every possibility: allergies, asthma, respiratory virus, common cold."
Steffen said it became clear fairly quickly that it was a virus.
"He was coughing pretty hard and kind of achy and wasn't breathing well," Steffen said. "We're super disappointed and feel badly for Andrew. You know this thing is all about timing and luck. This could have been a week ago, or it could have been two weeks from now, but unfortunately it was today."
Talansky suffered from allergies during his last appearance at the Tour of California in 2012, when he finished 41st in the eight-day race. But Steffen said Sunday's ailment is different.
"That was down in Bakersfield, closer to the L.A. basin, and I think it's a different thing," he said. "That was some really bad air. That's where all the drilling is and some pretty bad air. That was the Bakersfield TT where he thought he'd do really well but he got fifth."
Steffen said the team were all hoping, and maybe in denial, that it was just going to be allergies. But now they are thinking it is likely a virus as well.
"He was trying to really tough it out and stay in," Steffen said. "We thought when we turned away from the tree-lined river and got out into the dirt fields basically there might be some cleaner drier air and he might be OK."
Unfortunately for Talansky, soon after the peloton turned away from the river it entered a stretch of dirt road, which threw even more dust into the air.
"So that just sealed the deal," Steffen said. "Poor guy. He's a smart kid and a tough guy, and he knows his body and he knew what he could do.
"We were yelling at him, 'Hang in there. You can do it.' But you can only push it to a certain point."