Q&A: Talansky on top-10 Tour debut, USA Pro Challenge

Andrew Talansky's current season, his third year within the Garmin organisation, has certainly been stellar for the 24-year-old American. Earlier this year, the Garmin-Sharp American had a stage win plus a stint in the leader's jersey at Paris-Nice where he eventually finished second overall to Richie Porte (Sky). He followed that with a sixth place result at Criterium International, won by Porte's teammate Chris Froome, and then finished 16th at Tour de Romandie and 28th at Criterium du Dauphine.

Talansky already had two Grand Tour finishes in his palmares - both at the Vuelta a Espana, highlighted by a seventh place general classification in his most recent 2012 participation - but 2013 would be the year he made his Tour de France debut. Having built to the Grand Boucle all season, Talansky delivered a stunning result, finishing 10th overall and finishing strong in the final week to crack the top-10.

Talansky has since recovered from his Tour de France outing and Cyclingnews spoke to him Sunday on the eve of the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado. Talansky reflected on his Tour de France experience plus provided insight regarding his first participation at the USA Pro Challenge, kicking off today with a circuit race in Aspen, where he will be one of several strong options on the Garmin-Sharp roster for both stage wins and overall victory. Talansky also discussed his schedule for the remainder of the season and voiced his support of Tour de France champion Froome, who also will be competing in Colorado along with lieutenant Porte.

Cyclingnews: Four Sundays ago, you finished your debut Tour de France in 10th place overall, the highest placed American at the 100th edition and your second consecutive top-10 in Grand Tours. Having had some time to reflect, what is your impression of your first Tour de France experience?

Andrew Talansky: Looking back it surpassed all expectations I had for the race and it lived up to every expectation I had for it as far as what you expect of the Tour. Everybody tells you that it's the biggest race in the world, that it's the greatest race in the world - and that's putting it up on a pretty high pedestal - but it's actually an event where you go and do it and it truly is the greatest bike race in the world.

There's nothing better than the Tour de France and getting to be part of it. You don't have a lot of time during the race to look at it, but you definitely have a few moments where you realize this is it. You dream of being a pro cyclist - you do that, ok - but then you dream of the Tour de France, and I got to be in that and that's definitely the highlight of my cycling career thus far.

As far as our team, I think it went really well. We had me in 10th overall, Dan [Martin] won a stage, I got third on a stage and we took as much as we could out of the race. It's the Tour - Ryder [Hesjedal] had a broken rib and people are hurt and things come up and that's the way the Tour is. Anybody, anytime, any year something can happen.

And then on a personal level, the Tour was really a good reflection on how my whole cycling career has been in that not everything goes perfectly but you just keep on fighting and you end up pretty well, close to the top. Not everything went smoothly - I cracked in the Pyrenees, and then I had a little freak crash and then this and that but then things turn around. At the end of the day it was an incredible experience.

CN: You did San Sebastian one weekend after finishing the Tour de France, then you've been away from competition for three weeks before returning to racing at the USA Pro Challenge. Just how deep did you dig during the Tour and what has your recovery process entailed?

AT: Before the Tour, I really liked San Sebastian, so I thought it might be a good idea, but in hindsight, going as deep as I had been going in the Tour, it perhaps wasn't the best idea. It just postponed by a week getting to shut everything down and take a real rest.

I've done the Vuelta twice. You finish and it's towards the end of the season, so even if you're kind of cooked it doesn't really matter. You just ride through that for a few weeks and then the season's over.

With the Tour, it was kind of a new challenge because that kind of stress is done - the Tour stress, the Paris-Nice stress - but you still need to continue racing, and I like to be at a decent level for the rest of the year.

It was surprising. I went not just physically but mentally so deep during the Tour to places I've never gone before and you just kind of have to disengage from that for a while.

When I got back to the US after San Sebastian, that's what I did. I took a little rest and the way I see it now it's just building up all the way from here through Worlds and to finish the season strong, in a good place and healthy.

CN: Regarding the big-time domestic stage races, you've had experience at the Amgen Tour of California, but this is your first time at the USA Pro Challenge. How familiar are you with the parcours and what are your expectations for the week ahead?

AT: I'm really excited to be at this race. I haven't had the best luck at California in the two years that I did it. I have allergies that time of year and it just hasn't turned out to be my race even though it's my home state essentially now.

I'm really excited to get to race in the US and race and race at home. From what I've heard, the fans are incredible here and the route looks really good on paper. I've always enjoyed racing at altitude. Growing up as an amateur in the US you do Tour of the Gila, you do Utah when it used to be open to amateur teams.

I haven't raced a full race at altitude since Gila in 2010 but I've always liked it and there's something cool about it. It throws one more bit of adversity into it and I think Americans are a little bit more used to dealing with it. We come up doing full races at altitude where Europeans maybe they'll train at altitude but they've never done one-week stage races above 7,000 feet.

Personally, I'm just building back up. I took a little break, but I'm healthy. I feel good and I'm just looking forward to it.

CN: The Vail time trial, stage 5 of this year's USA Pro Challenge, seems tailor-made to your skill set. When it was last run at the USA Pro Challenge in 2011, your friend Levi Leipheimer won by fractions of a second over your teammate and now defending overall champion Christian Vande Velde. Did either of them provide any insight or advice concerning the stage?

AT: I'm glad it's a few days into the race as I generally get better as races go on - I really need a few days of intensity and racing. I always usually able to pull something special out for time trials.

I haven't won a time trial since 2010 nationals. I've been second on numerous occasions, generally to members of Sky, and I've always been up there but it would be really nice to win it. On paper, I haven't seen it yet, but it looks like a really good course for me plus the bike set-up I have available to use.

I'm pretty good friends with Levi, and I talked to him. He said, "The course is made for you, just don't break my record." [laughs] Christian, he would have the record except for half a second.

It's obviously a stage racer's time trial. It's not, I don't think, a pure time trialist's time trial. I'll have to see the course that morning and then go from there.

CN: Following the USA Pro Challenge what's your race schedule for building up to Worlds?

AT: I do the two Canadian one-days, Quebec and Montreal, and then go over for Garmin for the team time trial at Worlds. I'm expecting to be selected for the individual time trial as well, and then I'll do the road race for sure. The road race is going to be the end of my season, absolutely.

CN: On July 18, three days prior to the Tour de France's conclusion, you posted the following on Twitter: "If in the future Tejay or myself are able to do something similar to Chris Froome will you criticize and doubt us the same as you do to him". What reaction have you received from that statement?

AT: It was a mixed bag. With everything that's come out in the past about cycling, it's completely understandable that people question. It's our job to regain credibility, but in my mind that's what Chris Froome winning the Tour does, that's what Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour does. This system of focusing on details, focusing on training, focusing on thing that in the past have been ignored.

Their coach Tim Kerrison said it blew his mind the knowledge gap there was in cycling. So much of the past was focused on doping programs in that era that they weren't worried about the actual specifics of the training and that's totally shifted now.

I believe Dave Brailsford also said that there may come a day where clean performances surpass past doped performances and that's also possible with the differences in the training, with the differences in equipment, with the differences in race scheduling. It's the same sport but a different world within the sport.

When I posted that on Twitter, it was just frustrating. I have a great deal of respect for Sky, and especially for Richie Porte and Chris Froome, who I know a little bit. My point with that was saying I put in that hard work for the next three years, or five years, and I'm on that Tour podium - or what if I win the Tour one year - I know that there will be questions if that's the case. But the point was we're American - me, Tejay - and a lot of people seem to believe in what we're doing, and they have every reason to as we try to point out, and that was my point in that I don't understand why people don't give the same benefit of the doubt to Chris Froome.

I was essentially trying to say that I believe in what he's doing and I believe in Sky. I think that them winning the Tour and the way they won the race this year is a huge step forward for cycling. That's my personal opinion.

It's hard to see somebody that you respect so much and you draw inspiration from in the amount of work he's put in, not just this year but in the past, to build to this point and the way he's won the races this year and then to be winning the biggest race in the world - I'm sure one of his dreams coming true - and just to be questioned over and over and have people booing him on the course, it's not the right way to treat someone.

Chris Froome's just better, but he's also 28 years old. Tejay and I are 24 years old while Richie Porte came into the sport very late and it's a process.

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Based in the southeastern United States, Peter produces race coverage for all disciplines, edits news and writes features. The New Jersey native has 30 years of road racing and cyclo-cross experience, starting in the early 1980s as a Junior in the days of toe clips and leather hairnets. Over the years he's had the good fortune to race throughout the United States and has competed in national championships for both road and 'cross in the Junior and Masters categories. The passion for cycling started young, as before he switched to the road Peter's mission in life was catching big air on his BMX bike.