Garmin-Barracuda has a gaping hole in its palmares: it has never claimed the overall victory at the Amgen Tour of California. This year, team manager Jonathan Vaughters is determined to fill that gap with a two-man assault on the general classification with Tom Danielson and Andrew Talansky.
Danielson, 34, had an epiphany last year when he placed third here, and with this new-found confidence as a stage race contender he made the top 10 at the Tour de France.
Talansky, in his second year at Garmin-Barracuda at 23, had his break-out performance in the Tour de Romandie when he took second overall and came within 12 seconds of the race victory.
These two riders will be sharing the race leadership in the Amgen Tour of California.
"I think our odds are better to win the race this year than ever before," said Vaughters. "In previous years our focus has been diverse; try to get a stage or in the race lead for a day. Our focus is more compact this year and we're really going to focus on the general classification."
Danielson is looking down the road to July, when he will try and better his performance in a Tour de France which features more than 100km of time trialing. The focus on the race of truth will come in handy in California, where the Bakersfield test will be one of two truly key stages.
"I'm definitely coming to this race having given it my all in training leading up to it," Danielson told Cyclingnews. "If I'm not as good as the best guys, then I have more work to do before July. If I am, then awesome, I'll pat myself on the back. I'm focused on July, but to meet those goals I have to make goals here and meet them.
"Time trialing has been a strength of mine but in the past, I don't think I've given it enough attention in training. Over the past month and a half I've spent a lot of time working on it. The race will show whether or not it's helped or not. The ingredient for good time trialing is hard work and dedication and I think I've done that in the last month and a half."
Danielson will be up against some of the world's best climbers: Vincenzo Nibali, winner of the 2010 Vuelta a Espana and more recently, Tirreno-Adriatico; Chris Horner, last year's overall winner; Robert Gesink, Peter Velits and others who excel on the steep, high mountain ascents. While Danielson can hold his own on the climbs, he will look to gain a buffer in the time trial to help the team tactically in the subsequent two mountain stages.
"I want to do the best time trial I can. For sure I'll do the best I can and try to get a cushion for Baldy. Baldy is probably one of the best climbs in the world for me."
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