Geert Van Bondt has said that overall victory in Paris-Nice is the main aim for Garmin and that a lack of climbing support for race leader Andrew Talansky can be overcome.
Talansky pulled on the leader’s yellow jersey after winning stage 3 to Brioude. The American joined up with a late escape group and sprinted to victory to claim the biggest win of his young career. Clearly in form, the biggest question mark surrounds the strength of his team. With three of Garmin’s most experienced stage race riders on their way back from suspension and a sizeable chunk of the team's armoury at Tirreno-Adriatico, the Argyle squad has bolstered their Paris-Nice team with Classics riders.
That trick worked a treat in the opening stages as the likes of David Millar, Fabian Wegmann, Jack Bauer and Johan Vansummeren kept Talansky out of trouble and out of the wind. Positioning before the final climb on stage 3 was also crucial in Talansky’s eventual stage win.
However unlike many of his rivals Talansky lacks supports in the mountains. Last year's runner up, Lieuwe Westra, is just six seconds off the lead, with Jean-Christophe Peraud, Riche Porte, Tejay van Garderen and Andreas Klöden all within touching distance. Talansky was left isolated on the final two climbs of stage 4 but marked a number of key moves before the favourites re-grouped.
“We’ve got more classics riders here like Millar and Klier, who can keep Andrew at the front when there’s a side wind and the road is flat. So far that part has worked really well and the team helped Andrew,” Van Bondt told Cyclingnews ahead of stage 5 and the crucial summit finish at La Montagne de Lure.
“Andrew has been very good, very strong and we saw that when he took the jersey. The experienced guys on the team helped to get him into the right position before the final climb on stage 3. We knew that yesterday would be tough though and that we don’t have the best climbers. We were in trouble right at the start and Andrew only one had one rider with him at the start. The race came back together before the final two climbs and we did a lot of work chasing the break.”
Despite a lack of climbing support Garmin share the same aim as BMC, Sky and Vacansoleil, with all four squads competing for the overall win.
“Sky and BMC have the same interests as us and they want to control the race as well. They don’t want to see a break ride off the front and take yellow either. These will be the most important teams in the race so on the hard stages it’s a priority to make sure that Andrew is kept in the best position and that he keeps the jersey,” added Van Bondt, himself a classics rider in his day.
“Andrew is a very good time trialists and the climbs suits him very well. I think that La Montagne de Lure is also a good climb for him, it’s steady and it’s a good stage for him. It wouldn’t surprise me if he wins the stage. But for us that’s not the goal. The goal is that we control the race and that we keep the jersey. Andrew has to give everything on La Montagne de Lure.”
The race lead could all come down to the slopes of La Montagne de Lure where Alberto Contador crushed the opposition in 2009.
“Porte, Westra, and van Garderen, they are the riders to challenge us. Also there are Roche and Kloden too. At that point Andrew will have to see who is riding well and then probably make his own tempo.”