Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) achieved two career milestones at the recently concluded Tour de l'Ain stage race in France which augurs well for the Vuelta a España, beginning on Saturday, August 18. The 23-year-old American earned his first pro win on last Friday's penultimate stage of the Tour de l'Ain, a victory which put Talansky in the leader's jersey, and on Saturday's fifth and final stage the Garmin rider defended his general classification lead to notch his first stage race win.
"I went to l'Ain with the goal of preparing for the Vuelta and sometimes when you don't have a ton of pressure bigger things just happen, and that was the case there," Talansky told Cyclingnews. "It's a 2.1 race and you get all the big French guys like Pierre Rolland, Thibaut Pinot and Jerome Coppel - there's a lot of national pride in the race and a lot of French guys really want to win, but weird stuff happens."
Talansky was referring to what happened on stage three where a 23-rider group finished more than 22 minutes ahead of the peloton. "In a ProTour race, like say the Tour, Romandie or the Dauphine, you have Sky controlling it and the tactics are pretty simple. You can bank on a team controlling it. But there you have groups of 20 or 30 guys rolling off and that's what happened on Thursday. I hopped across to one group that kind of split off the front and there was one or two guys from almost every team and that was it. That narrowed down the GC to the guys who made the front that day."
Talansky finished third on the stage and found himself fourth overall on general classification, 23 seconds behind stage three winner Daniel Navarro (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank). Thursday's 156km stage from Nantua to Septmoncel provided a mountain finish for Talansky to put his fitness to the test.
"The plan on Thursday was to just stay relaxed and calm and make the split but Friday was the day I really wanted to see how I was climbing," said Talansky. "I kind of took control and really made it hard into the final climb. When their (Movistar) last guys pulled off and there was just one guy, [Sergio] Pardilla, left there was just three of us. I knew from the day before if I just get to the finish with those two guys that I'd be able to win the stage so that's kind of how I played it. I felt really good on the climb."
Talansky arrived at the finish in a three-man break with Sergio Pardilla (Movistar) and Rafal Majka (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) and outsprinted them for his first professional victory. With the time bonus plus gap to his rivals Talansky now led the Tour de l'Ain by 12 seconds over Pardilla and 38 seconds over Navarro. Just one stage remained.
"Going into Saturday, it was really simple - it's a nice thing when you have the jersey and a strong team because all I had to do was follow wheels," said Talansky. "The team rode great all day and defended the lead. Christophe Le Mevel pretty much took control for the last 20km by himself and rode on the front so hard that nobody could attack so it made my life pretty easy."
In just one week's time from overall victory in the Tour de l'Ain, Talansky will line-up for the opening stage at the Vuelta a España. Talansky made his Grand Tour debut in last year's Vuelta, finishing 79th overall, but this time around it's a much different scenario for the Garmin American.
"This year, having won Tour de l'Ain and my first pro win, I'm going into the Vuelta in a much, much better place mentally and physically than I did last year" said Talansky. "You have another year of experience and that's what this sport is about. Each year you do a Grand Tour you really reach another level. I saw that this season and I'm still seeing it. Doing the Vuelta last year is what made winning Tour de l'Ain possible, it's what made what I did at [Tour de] Romandie possible (second overall behind Bradley Wiggins). It helps you step up another level and it's just something that no training could ever replicate.
"I had a few issues earlier in the year but things kind of work out. If I had made the Tour team then maybe I wouldn't have won Tour de l'Ain. It all works out and I'll go into the Vuelta with a strong team. I feel good, I think most of the guys feel good and I think we're going to do some exciting stuff there."
Jonathan Vaughters New York Times op-ed
Just one day after Talansky wrapped up the general classification victory at the Tour de l'Ain, the New York Times published a candid opinion piece written by Garmin manager Jonathan Vaughters in which he came clean about doping in his career and how it spurred him on to create a professional cycling team in which doping is never part of the equation.
"I did read it and I've also read David Millar's book," said Talansky. "It seems that they both came through the sport in a similar time and they were racing their bikes when I didn't even know what bike racing was. What I'm really, really happy about, whatever happened in Jonathan's past, the fact that it led him to creating the Slipstream organisation, creating this clean team and living by that ethos of making sure that riders like myself or Alex Howes or Pete Stetina or any young guy who comes into this sport and joins this team, that that's (doping) never put into the equation. It's never something that we're ever going to have to deal with. We're never going to have to make that choice between following our dreams or cheating to follow our dreams. We just get to follow our dreams and just become the most successful cyclist we can in an extremely positive, extremely clean environment.
"That's what's incredible to me is what he's created with this team is I think one of the most special things in cycling. I think the sport as a whole, I'd venture to say, is the cleanest it's ever been in the last 20 years. The point is now what Jonathan started with this team is really carrying over to a lot of teams, it's not just us anymore. You look at any team and they're all for the most part on the blood passport program and we've made leaps and bounds in the sport. I'm really thankful that I'm coming into it now, especially on a team like this where I never have to make decisions that Jonathan or any other rider [before] may have been faced with."