While many of the riders taking on next week's Critérium du Dauphiné will do so with an eye to the Tour de France, it's unlikely to be the case for Saxo Bank's David Tanner as he winds down this half of his season.
Tanner had been due to make his grand tour debut at the Giro d'Italia before the residual effects from a crash at Circuit de la Sarthe ended his hopes.
"It was just disappointing because if things were done differently after the crash I had, and I had time to recover, then I would have been fine to do it but I kept racing," he told Cyclingnews. "I'm not so disappointed about not being there, it was more the situation that I was in. But anyway, that's cycling and I'll get another chance another time. I'm not bitter about it at all."
The 27-year-old admits that while nothing will make up for the fact that he has missed the Giro, he's primed to make the best of the opportunities he has at the Dauphiné, now back to full fitness following Bayern Rundfahrt. The eight-stage event, while not overly suited to his strengths, will see Tanner in support for JJ Haedo in the limited sprinting opportunities and also for GC hopes Jesus Hernandez and Danny Navarro as the race heads into the mountains.
After the Dauphiné, Tanner will race the Tour de Slovenie before taking a six week break from competition which will provide him with a launching pad for an important back end of 2012.
Interesting times at Saxo Bank
With a new co-sponsor, Spanish timeshare group Anfi, in the works for Bjarne Riis' outfit and it looking ever more likely that Alberto Contador will return from his clenbuterol ban with his former team, the next few months at the Danish-registered team could prove formative.
Contador's movements could prove pivotal in Tanner's quest for a start in a grand tour with the Vuelta a Espana a possibility for the Australian should the Spaniard not return to Saxo Bank.
"I've got no idea to tell you the truth," Tanner admitted when quizzed on the likelihood of Contador's return to the team. "No one talks about it. I only know as much as what everyone else sees on Cyclingnews. It's not like we get updates via email or anything like that. It would be nice to know but it's like everything. There's always speculation, but until they make an announcement then I try not to think about it."
As Saxo Bank languishes at the bottom of the UCI points table for the season so far, there is continued speculation on what the wash-up will be should the team not get some big results on the board. Under UCI rules, any points Contador gains over the next two years would not count for the team. Riis has indicated he is willing to challenge those UCI rules.
"It's a tricky case, because there are many other rules to be observed. It's more complicated than that," he said in April. "I'm getting tired of it, but it is evidently a part of the game. Right now though we ride our races and that is where we try to keep our focus."
Tanner gave Cyclingnews some insight as to what is has been like for the riders.
"I don't feel the team is pushing us saying ‘we need points, we need points' – it's not as if we're going to try any more or any less," he explained. "Everyone is trying as hard as they can now. Everyone knows that it's there but we're not reminded of it consistently."
Limburg would be nice...
Tanner's season is once again set to finish quite late – in 2011 he rode all the way through to the Japan Cup in October. But it's not such a bad thing for the Victorian. During his downtime, Tanner will head to altitude in Boulder, Colorado in preparation for what he hopes is a fruitful few months which should include the Eneco Tour and GP Ouest France – Plouay.
In the back of his mind is a spot on the Australian team for the UCI Road World Championships in Limburg – an area Tanner loves to race in and is well-suited to and would prove quite dangerous in tandem with Simon Clarke.
"I like the conditions and the terrain and I'd love to go there and support Cadel [Evans] and Simon [Gerrans] but I think at this stage I don't have the results to warrant a spot," he said. "Hopefully the team's not too decided at the moment. I'd love to do it but I need performances."
Tanner hasn't celebrated a win since 2010 at the Tour of China, and this is something he's keen to rectify – "it's the stimulation that reminds you of why you work hard and why you make the sacrifices that you make."
He will admit to be slightly frustrated by the fact that another season has been punctuated by injury, but Tanner won't allow himself to be defined by it.
"There's all these good races at the end of the year and I love racing," Tanner told Cyclingnews. "I'd prefer to finish off the year really motivated and eager than to just go through the motions like some guys do so for me it's not a big deal.
"I had a lot of hurdles with the bad accident [in 2010] that I had and I guess it is one factor but I don't look into it too much. It's just the way that I've always been. You have to keep pushing forward at all times. Just because you have one problem doesn't mean that it's the end of the season. It's important to try and stay positive."
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