Back on track and back to do what they do best seemed to be the message from Cannondale Garmin at their Tour de France pre-race press conference on Thursday, with both the riders and management looking for a collective performance from the nine-man team.
The American squad – who made their Tour debut in 2008 as Garmin-Slipstream – head into the race with Andrew Talansky, Ryder Hesjedal and Dan Martin as potential GC candidates, and a run at the teams' classification isn't out of the question.
In fact, when the team won that classification in 2011 they did so with three GC riders in Hesjedal, Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson, the latter placing himself inside the top ten. That year, consistency was key to the team's success, and after a disappointing spring campaign the current crop of Argyle riders are eager to make their mark. The signs are promising, with Hesjedal claiming to be in form after his strong showing at the Giro d'Italia and Talansky and Martin back from a post-Dauphine altitude camp.
When asked if the teams' classification was a realistic ambition, director Charly Wegelius was at his entertainingly evasive best, but gave away the team's need to enter the Tour with options.
"The way the Tour has gone in the last few years, it's showed that spreading risk is probably a prudent thing to do, so coming to the race with three top level riders is a good thing to do. I think that if you look at the history of the team they've relied on performing well as a group with several riders at a high level without having one sole leader. So I think that's maybe the thinking with that," he said.
Jonathan Vaughters added that every rider would have their opportunity – a reasoned response that essentially means that any success would be gladly welcomed.
"This year we have the luxury of playing a much looser tactic than we have in a couple of years. This year I think everyone on the team comes in after having a bit of a rocky spring and we don't know exactly who will pop up and who will not so I think everyone will have a chance in this Tour. We're going to race each day as it comes," he said, when specifically asked if Sebastian Langeveld would be given a free pass for the cobbles.
Talansky, who was the team's designated leader last year, remains the teams best hope for GC this year, with Dan Martin a potential candidate for stage wins in each of the three week, and an outside for the King of the Mountains. Talansky, the former Dauphine winner crashed in last year's Tour and was forced to abandon and despite a slow start to the campaign he has gradually built up his form and confidence. It's quickly forgotten but after last year's Dauphiné win, he was talked up as a potential top five rider in the Tour.
"I didn't have the spring that I wanted and once that you're into the spring you can't change, but with nationals in the US I got things back on track. The Dauphiné was another step in that direction. I wasn't 100 per cent at that race but it was three weeks ago and it's another ten days until we get to the mountains of the Tour. I would say from my personal feelings, okay I won the Dauphiné last year but I actually feel better now and I think there's more of a progression. I feel fresher for what's to come. I'm a lot less stressed, that's for sure."
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