What a difference a year makes for Andrew Talansky. In 2009, he suffered through the US professional road race in Greenville, South Carolina to finish 8:20 down in 31st place, the conclusion to a lacklustre season with the Continental Amore & Vita - McDonald's squad. One year later Talansky, who spent 2010 racing as an amateur, returns to Greenville as a stagiaire for the Garmin-Transitions squad brimming with confidence and riding a wave of late season form.
Riding for the US national team, the 21-year-old Napa, California resident finished 10th overall at the Giro Ciclistico della Valle d'Aosta Mont Blanc, a hilly, six-day Italian stage race from August 24 to 29 and followed that result with a stunning second place finish in France's Tour de l'Avenir, an eight-day showcase of world-class under-23 talent which concluded on September 12, one week prior to the US professional road championships.
Talansky had already signed a three-year contract with Garmin-Transitions earlier this year to make his return to the pro ranks in 2011, announced after he claimed the U23 time trial national championship, but hadn't expected to fly the Garmin-Transitions colors as a stagiaire in 2010. But the Tour de l'Avenir changed everything.
"We had thrown around the stagiaire idea a little bit but I was doing Tour de l'Avenir and then Worlds with the national team so there wasn't really a big opportunity to do a bunch of European races with them (Garmin-Transitions). We figured that me riding as a stagiaire didn't serve a big purpose," Talansky told Cyclingnews. "But on Sunday I talked to my agent and jokingly threw the idea out about me racing US Pro, because I felt really good at l'Avenir. I did US Pro last year and suffered through it so I thought it would be pretty cool to go back to that race with good form and actually try to get on the podium there.
"He talked to JV (Jonathan Vaughters) and they were into the idea. They were pretty enthusiastic about it so all the good staff at Garmin made it happen pretty much overnight. Literally from Monday to Tuesday they made it happen."
Talansky returned to the US on Tuesday, spent a couple of days in Napa, then travelled east to Greenville on Friday to join his new teammates. Despite the strenuous racing in Europe and some whirlwind travel, Talansky feels surprisingly fresh, buoyed by sky-high morale from his recent endeavors in France.
"I'm feeling good, I put in a lot of good training leading up to l'Avenir," said Talansky. "We raced a six-day race in Italy before l'Avenir so with all that racing in your legs you're fatigued but you also have some really, really good fitness. The truth is I'm not actually that tired right now. I took a big mid-season break, I had a full 10 days in the middle of the season after nationals where I didn't ride at all, and I knew that I was going to build up again for l'Avenir and Worlds.
"Coming into US Pro, I think our team has a really good chance of winning. I know it's a stacked field - you have [George] Hincapie and [Brent] Bookwalter, Levi [Leipheimer] and [Chris] Horner. But [Garmin-Transitions's] Caleb Fairly, who won [Tour of the ] Battenkill is doing the race and [Garmin-Transitions's Peter] Stetina is one of the best climbers. I think we have a strong all-around team, I'm feeling good and I think we'll be able to surprise some people."
After Talansky's one-day stint in the professional ranks on Sunday, the final goal for the season is a strong performance at the world championships in Australia in which he'll contest both the U23 time trial and road race.
"I definitely would like to do a good ride in the time trial," said Talansky. "The [31.8km] time trial is two loops and it's not completely flat, which is good. I like a time trial where you have to change your pace a little bit and some climbing always helps me.
"Time trialing is something I worked on a lot this year. I've really been focusing on it and spent a lot of time on the time trial bike over in Europe before l'Avenir. Hopefully I can put in a good ride there [in Australia], but it's a pretty impressive field. You have Jesse Sergent, [Taylor] Phinney, Alex Dowsett, but we'll see."
The U23 road race world championship will almost certainly be his last race of the 2010 season, and Talansky believes it's a prime opportunity for his teammate Taylor Phinney.
"The national team director, Patrick Jonker, lives in Australia and he told us the course is a lot harder than people think it is," said Talansky. "It's not a flat course by any means. We have Taylor Phinney who, judging from l'Avenir, I think will be able to get over those climbs just fine. If that is the case and he comes to the finish there's no under-23 rider in the world who can beat him.
"I've yet to hear what the team wants me to do, but I'm open to helping Taylor after he dug pretty deep and helped me more than I ever could have imagined at l'Avenir. It would be great to return the favour at Worlds."