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Tanner hoping for Ardennes start

David Tanner was supposed to spend the weekend racing in the comparatively balmy climes of Corsica for the Critérium International, instead, he was attempting to keep warm next to a coal fire at the team presentation ahead of Gent-Wevelgem in below-zero temperatures.

A late addition for the Blanco team due to injury, the 28-year-old wasn't sure what to expect.

"I didn't feel tip-top through Paris-Nice," Tanner told Cyclingnews. "The week after I really come up good and I feel like I have great form at the moment. The only problem is that when it gets this cold, I can't go basically. I don't seem to have the same feelings."

It was not a great day for Blanco, with just Lars Boom (23rd), Maarten Tjallingii (48th) and Maarten Wynants (53rd) among the field of 70 that finished the race.

The untold story of how Tanner arrived at Blanco is this. Last August at the Eneco Tour, during his second season at Saxo-Tinkoff, Tanner launched a blistering attack on the peloton in the final two kilometres of the third stage to Genk which was all together in anticipation for a bunch sprint finish. Tanner's surge off the front caused the Rabobank team, which was working for Theo Bos, to scramble with Graeme Brown and Mark Renshaw forced to the front earlier than what is generally ideal for the Dutch speed man. The plan had been to drop Bos off in position at 200 metres to go but on this day he had an extra 300 metres to contend with and had to search for a wheel elsewhere. Bos won the stage, Tanner was swept up at around 600 metres before the finish, but with the team on the hunt for a rider to set up the lead-out ahead of Brown, Rabobank found their man.

"Mark is good friends with him and was pushing him," Brown explained to Cyclingnews earlier this year. "It was almost logical. If he could go off the front, then he could be in the front."

The role of lead-out man is not something that Tanner, a former stage winner at the Tour of Utah and genuine all rounder, will be restricted to, culminating in some opportunities of his own later in the season, most likely at the WorldTour events in Quebec and Montreal. He began the year playing a large hand in the overall win of Tom Slagter at the Tour Down Under, appearing immediately at ease in his new surroundings.

"It's worked out really good," Tanner admitted. "When there's a sprint, I'm 100 percent helping Mark but the team have also seen that I can help the climbers and I can also do things in the races that are good for me. It's a perfect place for me."

With Gent-Wevelgem over and done with, Tanner is bound for the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco where not only is he looking forward to some warmer weather in the Basque Country, but also a better indication of his form, keen to earn a spot in the Blanco squad for the Ardennes Classics, his favoured terrain.

"Whether I have a role to play there in helping the other guys or not I don't know yet," he explained. "I have to wait a little bit. It's not that often that I'm going to be able to play my card so when I do get a chance I have to make the most of it.

"At this stage we have a very strong team with TJ Slagter, Bauke Mollema... I'm just going into those races with the goal of doing the best I can for the team."

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