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American beats Contador to take biggest career win
He may have produced one of the most exciting moments the sport of cycling has witnessed this year when he sealed the overall win at the Critérium du Dauphiné on stage 8 but Garmin-Sharp's Andrew Talansky is quickly moving onto his next goal.
Within just a few hours of stepping off the final podium in the maillot jaune, Talansky was on the road again, this time in a team car and heading off for a Monday morning recon of the Tour de France’s individual time trial, a 54km course from Bergerac to Périgueux. No rest for the weary.
Talansky had just pulled off the biggest win of his career too. Starting the final stage of the Dauphiné in third position, 39 seconds down on overnight leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo), the American all-rounder attacked as part of a large group on the opening climb of the race.
While Contador and second placed rider Chris Froome (Team Sky) watched each other, Talansky’s group built up an advantage of over three minutes. By the foot of the penultimate climb, Talansky still remained the virtual leader of the race, prompting Contador to take matters into his own hands and attack.
The battle was set for an epic duel with Talansky pulling the remnants of the break up the last two climbs while Contador looked to reel in the young American and his accomplices. It looked as though the Spaniard would pull it off when he reduced the gap to 56 seconds on the lower slopes of the final ascent but the race leader began to suffer, coughing up a handful of second to leave Talansky with the biggest win of his career.
“I don’t think it really has quite sunk in yet but I’ve had time to appreciate what a great day it was and appreciate what a show we put on for everyone watching, that’s for sure,” Talansky told Cyclingnews as he made the car journey to Bergerac for Monday’s recon.
“On the first climb when the gap went out to three minutes I knew it was a good situation but I never let myself think that I was going to win the race. I just focused on what we were doing off the front and getting myself ready for the last two climbs when I knew I was going to have to ride for myself. Of course, I had Ryder Hesjedal and he did everything for me.”
Talansky crossed the finish line in fourth place and was forced to endure an agonising wait as the seconds ticked by and Contador approached the line.
“I didn’t truly believe it after I crossed the line and watched the seconds tick by. I knew what the time gap was at the bottom of the climb and Bingen Fernández was giving me updates from the car. It was steady but I thought that there was a chance Contador would hit the final climb and come up to me or at least take 30 seconds back but after such a hard day, such a hard week, everyone was pretty tired and I was able to hold onto the gap.”
In truth, although the final stage was a fitting end to an exciting Dauphiné, Talansky’s overall win was delivered through consistency as well as Sunday’s brilliant finale.
“I started off well with the TT and coming here isn’t about one ride on one day, even though today was incredible. It’s about the whole week, working with my teammates and then dialling everything in leading up the Tour. It’s about trusting each other, and then on a personal perspective, it was about having a solid time trial and then having a good day in the mountains on stage 2. The Dauphiné is a great race to use as preparation for the Tour but it’s also a great race in its own right,” he told Cyclingnews.
Attention now turns to the Tour de France. Talansky made the top 10 in his debut last year and he has already spoken of his ambition to improve on that result this time around. There’s no talk of a top five or a podium place, with the American remaining grounded and realistic, even after his Dauphiné triumph.
“I have to say my fitness this week didn’t surprise me. I knew exactly where I was coming into the race and I planned to get better during the race. I didn’t expect that would end with the podium or a race win but it did. So for the Tour, it doesn’t really change a thing. The Tour is the Tour and the Dauphiné is the Dauphiné, and you have to stay realistic.”