The American philosopher John Dewey once said that "failure is instructive". That is the view that Cannondale's Andrew Talansky is taking after a rocky start to the season.
The 27-year-old hasn't raced since he crashed out of Paris-Nice early last month, deciding to sit out the Volta a Catalunya and head for an altitude training camp in Tenerife. Talansky endured a difficult start to the season last year also, but he and the team chose to try and race towards form. It was a fruitless exercise and, facing that decision for a second season running, he believes that he has learned from his error.
"With the level that cycling is at you can't race to train, you've got to train to race and it rarely works the other way around. You can't go to a race underprepared hoping that it will bring you to the form that you want to have," he told Cyclingnews ahead of the team's final day of training in Tenerife.
"We kind of saw that last year with Paris-Nice not quite going how I wanted it to go. We had a plan of Paris-Nice, Catalunya, and País Vasco and with hindsight we were chasing and hoping that I could go to the next race and feel better. Now, we had the chance not to do that, and I think previous times have shown that if I can get a good block of training in at altitude you can lay the groundwork from May and June and into July."
Talansky and several of his teammates, including fellow general classification leaders Pierre Rolland and Rigoberto Urán, have been up at Mount Teide for the past two weeks. Altitude camps are commonplace in cycling these days, and the American is no stranger to them. However, this is the first time that he has visited the island of Tenerife, which has become one of the most popular destinations for teams. After hearing so much about it in the past, Talansky says it has been one of the best he's done.
"Simply put, I get it now. You read for years about Sky coming here but long before that you heard about other riders coming out here like Lance [Armstrong] and other Americans such as Levi Leipheimer. Obviously, because of that there was a stigma, but the reality of it was - whatever else was going on I don't know - training here is up there with the best climbing in the world," he said, adding that the lack of anything near the team's hotel at the foot of Teide is a blessing.
"I like this environment for that reason because there are no distractions, and you realise that you are making those sacrifices, so you do work that way and make the most of it. It's one of the most barren places I've been to. I don't see why you would be up here for this long for anything other than training. It is by far the most productive two weeks I've ever done."
Laying the foundations for the Tour de France
The training camp has given Talansky a chance to stop and take account of his season so far. He began at the Tour de San Luis in January, a chance to test his legs ahead of the more important European racing. It was a solid ride and he was in 14th place overall following the final mountain stage, although stomach problems would force him out of the last stage. His abandon at Paris-Nice was a setback, but it is all about July and the Tour de France for the American, and he is confident that he's back on track.
"I don't think that I'm in peak 100 per cent shape," he said. "Ideally, I would like to be there in July, but I do think we have solidified the foundations for the path from here to July. From when I came here it is night and day."
Talansky, as with many of the others in Tenerife, heads home to the team's European base of Girona before he begins racing again at the Tour of Romandie. In the past, it has been the last race of his early season block but the resultant change of programme following his Paris-Nice crash means that it has become the start of his second block.
"Usually, I arrive at Romandie stretching it, and it's always the end of the spring block. This year, it's the beginning of my build-up towards July, and I'm interested in how everything will go. Rather than needing to take a break, it forms part of the build-up. Usually, I'm very tired after Romandie but this time, it is not the case," he explained.
"For me personally, I'm approaching Romandie to race Romandie, but we have a lot of guys from the Giro team going. They're here at the camp putting the icing on the cake of their Giro programme. Everybody is strong, and I think that we're going to have a great team there. We have people who can win stages and for sure we have people that should be in the top five or on the podium overall."
Talansky has added to his racing between Romandie and the Tour de Suisse in June, and will race the Tour of California in May.
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