With three second places at the 2015 Tour de France, Cannondale-Garmin is determined to arrive in Paris with at least one stage win to its name. After finishing runner up to Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) on the Pra Loup summit finish, Andrew Talansky again chanced his luck for the American team on stage 18 to St-Jean-de-Maurienne, finishing ninth in a demonstration of the team's ambition and drive for victory.
Cannondale-Garmin had placed its triumvirate of Talansky, Dan Martin and Ryder Hesjedal in the 29-man breakaway with the goal of stage victory as the team’s sole focus on general classification has ended following a collective jour sans on La Pierre Saint-Martin.
For Talansky, today was no 'revenge mission' for his close call yesterday but simply a repeat dosage of the team’s tactics in the final week of the Tour.
"No revenge, just continuing the approach we’ve taken in this last week and now with myself, Ryder and Dan off the front and up the road is a pretty good scenario," Talansky said after cooling down at the team bus. "We didn’t come out in the wind but like we’ve said, today was about trying and that’s what today about."
Along with Martin and Hesjedal, Talansky reiterated he is confident the team can deliver a stage win by Paris on Sunday.
"With myself, Dan and Ryder, I think we still have a good chance and we are still going to keep trying definitely and that’s what we said yesterday and we tried yesterday, we tried again today and we have two more days at the Tour to try again," he added.
On yesterday’s long descent off the Col d’Allos, Talansky was able to reel in Thibaut Pinot, but there was no repeat performance as Romain Bardet stayed off the front to claim a maiden victory after attacking on the hors catégorie Col du Glandon.
"He got off the front in the last kilometre of the Glandon so he had a gap already going down the descent, so at that point we went down with group of guys and there wasn't a huge amount of collaboration on the downhill, there is only so much you can do and obviously Bardet knows the roads and went down pretty well," Talansky said of the stage winning attack.
"We did everything we could to get him, but I guess when you don’t have great collaboration everybody misses out on the chance for a stage win."
All for victory
After finishing 10th at the 2013 Tour, Talansky was forced to abandon last year’s race after stage 11. The aim for the 2015 Tour was another high GC position. Talansky’s post-stage comments and efforts in consecutive breakaways have symbolised the team’s aggressive tactics since the first rest day.
"I came here with aspirations to be top-five, so anything outside of that, we are definitely not riding to defend 12th, 13th, 15th or 11th on GC, we are riding to try and win a stage," Talansky said of his GC position's importance. "Whatever happens while we try and do that is just a by-product, we are definitely not a team that is going to defend 13th in the Tour."
Cannondale-Garmin sport director Charly Wegelius was on message with Talansky on the team’s risk-it-all approach. During the stage, Giant-Alpecin was controlling the front of the peloton with several riders in the breakaway a threat to the 10th place of Warren Barguil.
"Yeah I asked them and that’s what they were doing," said Wegelius to clarify the team’s tactics mid-stage.
Wegelius added that with teams riding in a defensive mind-set, as Giant-Alpecin exemplified, Team Sky and race leader Chris Froome are getting an easy ride as a result.
"It’s fairly standard practise if you’re trying to control the lead, because for the Sky team, it’s of absolutely no consequence letting a rider 22 to 16 minutes down go, and you can see that unfortunately the teams of the [GC] riders step in to do the dirty work for them trying to protect what they’ve got," Wegelius said on specific teams' third week tactics and the amount of large breakaways that have featured on the race.
"There are some races in the world where that doesn’t happen, but the Tour is so big that even these minor places are of value. In the end, Sky get a nice stable race behind and someone else comes and rides on the front for them to make them very happy."
When asked what he would do if he was in Movistar’s position of second and third on GC, Wegelius added that teams need to understand in order to win, one must be willing to also lose as his team has demonstrated.
"I don’t know, but the only thing to do is to isolate him from his teammates early enough and that means starting the race earlier and that means losing something," he said. "That also depends on the courage of other people not to step in and do the work for them, but historically that’s always happened."
Expect Cannondale-Garmin to continue its aggressive racing over the following two days in the Alps with stage victory its raison d’être.
"I think at this stage of the race you have to have already a plan to improvise based on the riders sensations, but I think the strategy is pretty clear," Wegelius concluded.