Talansky absent from Cannondale-Drapac roster for Paris-Nice

While Rigoberto Uran and Sep Vanmarcke lead Cannondale-Drapac in Tuscany's Strade Bianche on Saturday, Pierre Rolland will be in France preparing to lead a young eight-rider squad into Paris-Nice starting Sunday in Bois-d'Arcy.

Noticeably absent from the team's start list for either race is Andrew Talansky, the 28-year-old American whose last race was in September at the Vuelta a Espana, where he finished fifth.

Talansky, who broke his thumb on Christmas Eve, was on the provisional start list posted by the race last week, but he was not on the roster Cannondale sent to the media on Thursday.

Team spokesman Matthew Beaudin said Talansky was not injured and is at home in California. In a December interview with Cyclingnews, Talansky said his wife was expecting their first child in February.

In Talansky's absence, Rolland will pick up the leadership role in his home race, while younger riders like Joe Dombrowski and Davide Formolo will have free rein to go for their own GC results.

"We have a young team that is full of talent," said team director Charly Wegelius. "This will be an exciting opportunity for many of them to push themselves without the constraints of working for fixed leaders. I hope the riders will take advantage of that and put on an exciting show."

Joining Rolland, Dombrowski and Formolo in France will be Lawson Craddock, Kristijan Koren, Tom-Jelte Slagter, Davide Villella and Mike Woods.

Koren has the most race days this season from the Paris-Nice group, having started at Ruta del Sol in mid-February and then racing Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne last weekend.

Slagter and Woods have been on break since starting their season in January at the Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, while Rolland last raced at the Ruta. Craddock and Formolo are coming off the Vuelta a Valenciana early last month, while Villella was in Portugal at the Volta ao Algarve.

Dombrowski is the only rider on the roster who will be making his 2017 debut.

"I'm ready to race again," said the 25-year-old American. "I haven't yet this year, so there's always that first-race question mark. The team looks really strong. We have a number of guys that could have the chance to win a stage and potentially finish up on general classification as well."

Dombrowski will also be making his career debut in Paris-Nice after having lived for years in the French town where the race finishes.

"I'm excited for it," he said. "I've never done Paris-Nice before, but I've lived here every season since I turned professional, so I know the roads really well. I think I know every square inch of the final stage, and I can see the finish of the final stage from my living room. I'm excited to walk home from the bus."

The 2017 edition of Paris-Nice starts March 5 with a 148.5km stage that will likely go to the sprinters. After several opening opportunities for the fast men, the 14.5km individual time trial on stage 4 leads into a closing weekend that will decide the general classification, with three category 1 climbs on both Friday and Saturday, and five categorised climbs in Sunday's finale.

"[This year's] Paris-Nice has an interesting route, with no prologue and an individual time trial that will be hard to interpret," Wegelius said. "The last three days will offer especially exciting racing. As always the mood of the weather can influence this race greatly."

Cannondale-Drapac for Paris-Nice: Lawson Craddock, Joe Dombrowski, Davide Formolo, Kristijan Koren, Pierre Rolland, Tom-Jelte Slagter, Davide Villella, Mike Woods

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