One year ago Andrew Talansky raised eyebrows with his top-10 overall finish and best young rider classification title at the Tour of the Gila while racing for the amateur California Giant-Specialized squad.
Fast forward to this year and the 22-year-old American has duplicated the feat, albeit this time at the ProTour-level Tour de Romandie while in his debut season for Garmin-Cervélo. The US-based ProTour squad conducted a successful campaign at the Swiss stage race as Talansky and David Millar finished ninth and 10th respectively on general classification, David Zabriskie won the penultimate day's time trial, Talansky and teammate Peter Stetina claimed a 1-2 finish on the young rider classification and Garmin-Cervélo prevailed in the team classification.
"It was a great week for the team. Short of winning the whole race, we did just about everything you could do there," Talansky told Cyclingnews from his European base in Lucca, Italy.
Talansky's opening day prologue result, however, was hardly a harbinger of his week to come. He crashed on the 3km circuit and finished the stage in dead last, 155th place at 1:02. He would ultimately finish only 40 seconds off the podium at week's end, but the pragmatic Talansky was quick to brush aside any speculation of what could have been.
"If it's a longer TT and you do a quick bike change maybe you'll get back into your rhythm, but in a prologue like that, it's all about getting into it and nailing every corner," Talansky said. "I wasn't thinking about the overall after I crashed, I just pedaled to the finish.
"That's bike racing and things happen. If you spend your time thinking 'woulda, coulda, shoulda', you can say Andy Schleck would have won the Tour if he hadn't dropped his chain. The reality is he didn't win the Tour (de France).
"It's nice to have people say I could have been on the podium, but that would have changed the race completely. If I had been racing for the podium it would have been a completely different race. I got to go through with nobody paying any attention to me because I was dead last after the prologue."
It's all part of a learning curve for Talansky in his first season at Garmin-Cervélo and he's proved to be an attentive and diligent pupil. He came out flying in his season's debut with a fourth overall at the Tour Méditerranéen, narrowly edged out for the final podium spot and the young rider jersey by Wout Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM).
"It's a great race, I really enjoyed it and it was a fantastic season opener. However, a lot of people expected a lot right after that but that was more the U23 style of racing where the stages were a little shorter and just required one, bigger effort. All I had to do was do one good 20-minute climb the whole race to get that result."
Talansky soon found himself in Garmin-Cervélo line-ups for Paris-Nice and Vuelta al Pais Vasco, events which paved the way for his Tour de Romandie performance.
"What allowed me to feel good at Romandie was getting the opportunity to do Paris-Nice, to get dropped on climbs, suffer through and help out where I could. And at Tour of the Basque Country it was the same thing. The last day there, the last road stage before the time trial, I felt really good on the climbs and that was the first time I can honestly say this whole season that I felt comfortable on climbs. It's just a matter of me getting used to doing hard climb after hard climb and being able to do it at the end of a long day."
What has been consistently strong for Talansky, his Romandie prologue experience excepted, is his time trialing. Talansky, the 2010 American U23 time trial champion, has thus far tallied these solid results against the clock: seventh in stage six at Paris-Nice, fifth in stage two at Critérium International, fifth in stage six at Vuelta al Pais Vasco and most recently sixth in stage four at Tour de Romandie.
"It's kind of funny because I thought of that (time trialing) last season as more of my weak point," said Talansky. "I won the U23 national time trial championship last year and I didn't win it by a lot, it wasn't some amazing performance, but it kind of shifted my mentality a bit.
"Coming into this year this is the first time I've ever felt comfortable on a time trial bike. I take it out and ride it a couple of times a week and it's just a matter of practice. I know the position's fast and that I can put out the power.
"I've definitely surprised myself, but by the time Romandie came around I'd come to expect to be able to do a good time trial when it counts."
What certainly counts now for the Napa, California resident is a return to his home state for the Amgen Tour of California.
"It's really cool to have these great performances over here [in Europe] where you're up there individually on the podium and up there with your team. Your family can watch it on TV, but you're wishing that all those people who've supported me all of this time to be there in person to see it," said Talansky. "That's what California is - an opportunity for my family, my friends, my girlfriend and her family, all to come and see the race and be a part of it.
"With the team we're taking to that race, we have a very good chance of winning the overall or even having two people on the podium at the end. We're not going in there just to animate the race, we're going there to win. When you go in with that mentality it's definitely exciting to be part of that."