Of the 11 new riders on the 2011 Garmin-Cervélo roster gathered in the Cayman Islands this week, there is only one American addition: Andrew Talansky, the reigning U23 time trial national champion and second place overall finisher in France's Tour de l'Avenir.
The 22-year-old makes his return to the professional ranks at the top of the sport after spending 2010 racing domestically with the amateur California Giant Berry Farms squad and internationally with the US National Team. Talansky spent a lackluster year as a neo-pro in 2009 with the Italian Amore & Vita-McDonald's team.
Talansky signed his three-year contract with the team mid-season this year then confirmed the then Garmin-Transitions squad's eye for talent with late season success in Europe, culminating with his second place finish in the Tour de l'Avenir. Talansky is eager to showcase his talent in the professional peloton next season, with a Grand Tour start as an ambitious goal.
"All the people who've been around me in pro cycling, some of whom have been on the podium or top 10 in the Tour de France, they've all told me 'do a Grand Tour this year'," Talansky told Cyclingnews. "Whether it's the Giro or the Vuelta it's not so relevant, but just getting that three weeks of racing in my legs and getting the experience, because until you have it you don't know how you're going to respond. You can't win races before you do the races."
Sports Director Matt White has created a programme to test Talansky's mettle without putting undue difficulty on the young professional, meaning Talansky may have to wait another season for his Grand Tour debut.
"Obviously he's not going to do the Tour on this team and I'm not going to take him to the Giro, but the Vuelta we're going to wait and see how everyone pans out through July, and then in I'll make a decision," White told Cyclingnews.
"What I want to keep with the young guys is I don't want to do too much heavy duty racing, I want to give them some easier races as well so they can keep that mentality of winning. Andrew's won races, and once you lose that mentality of winning it's hard to get it back.
"He'll be doing races that are at a little lower lever, not all ProTour. If you do all ProTour level sometimes you just learn to survive in your first year. So a good mix of big level races and small level races to he can go for the win in a time trial or take his opportunities where there's not big leaders around so he can go for a stage win."
Talansky's Garmin-Cervélo debut will take place in February at Tour Méditerranéen and he will have ample opportunity throughout the spring to test his stage racing talent in events such Haut Var, Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia, Volta a Catalunya and Critérium du Dauphiné, Perhaps the most important highlight of his schedule will be the Amgen Tour of California and the chance for the Napa, California resident to race on local roads.
The Cayman Islands camp's primary purpose was to form bonds between the 18 riders returning from Garmin-Transitions and the 11 new hires, an environment Talansky found ideal.
"I didn't really know anybody [prior to the camp]," said Talansky. "I'd raced against Peter Stetina at certain points and I briefly met Christian Vande Velde, Tom Peterson, Dave Zabriskie and Tyler Farrar at Worlds, but they were doing their own thing in the pro race.
"It's really nice to come here [to the Caymans] in an environment like this because in January we'll have a training camp [in Calpe, Spain] and it will be serious training. It's a very different environment and if that's the first time you meet people you might not really get to know them as a person because it's a little more competitive and everybody's pushing it a little bit. Some of the guys I might not see for the rest of the year, some of them who are doing Tour Down Under [and won't be in Spain]. I'm rooming with Tyler Farrar, but he's doing the Tour Down Under, the Classics and the Tour, so who knows if I'll race with him for quite a while."
An additional bonus is having world champion Thor Hushovd as a teammate, a unique opportunity for a young pro. "It could happen once in your whole career," said Talansky. "You could be on teams with great riders, some of the best in the world, but it doesn't mean they're ever going to be world champion. Hopefully I'll get to do a few races with him."
Unlike many of his Garmin-Cervélo teammates, Talansky has chosen his European base in Lucca, Italy instead of Girona, Spain. The Tuscan locale is one Talansky was familiar with from his stint on Amore & Vita and with the US national U23 team and enables the young pro to immediately make a comfortable transition to Europe. "I like Italy - I like the people, the culture and it's more just the familiarity of it. For me it's easy to go there because I know how everything works there.
"I would like to go visit Girona to see how I like it, there's plenty of people from the team there, but I also kind of liked having my own space. You're around cyclists enough, it's a hard sport and it's nice when you can disengage a little bit and have time for yourself."