Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac) ticked off a couple items on his personal 'to-do' list Thursday at the Tour of California, as well as taking care of a big one for his team. Talansky beat overall leader Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) across the line in a two-up sprint at the top of Mt. Baldy to take his team's first WorldTour win in more than two years, cutting a few seconds off Majka's lead along the way.
Talansky also proved that missing the general classification move on stage 2 wasn't due to his fitness.
"I think today showed it wasn't because of the legs," said Talansky, who lost 37 seconds to Majka and George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) after missing the split on Mt. Hamilton. "I made a tactical decision, and I told my team afterwards it was the wrong one, obviously," he said. "That's bike racing. These guys rolled the dice, laid it out there and came away with the time. Rafal came away with the stage win. I made a choice and stuck with it that day, and I definitely had people asking that question.
"I knew it was a bit unknown for myself how I would feel today. Mt. Hamilton was nowhere near this type of effort, so I was happy I was able to show it had nothing to do with the legs."
Talansky finished fourth overall at the Tour of California last year and then ended his season with fifth overall at the Vuelta a Espana. His 2017 season has been slowed by illness and family issues, leaving him with just 13 days of racing heading into Thursday's stage. It didn't seem to matter as he climbed with the best, attacking multiple times and eventually taking his win.
"It's fantastic," he said. "I grew up in Miami, Florida, so that's home, but this is my adopted home. I live up in Napa. I have family and friends here. It's been a while since I've won race that wasn't a time trial, I guess that would be nationals – maybe the Dauphine was the last race I won. So this is fantastic to win this stage and be on the podium. Hopefully it made for good bike racing, because Rafal, myself, George [Bennett] and [Ian] Boswell are all pretty strong."
Talansky was part of a select group of climbers that formed on the middle slopes of the final climb, joining Majka, Bennett, Boswell and Lachlan Morton (Dimension Data) in a four-up battle for climbing supremacy. Morton and Boswell lost contact, but Boswell was able to claw his way back multiple times. In the end, Majka and Talansky got a small separation in the final 500 metres that they were able to carry to the line. The Bora rider misjudged the number of switchbacks and took a poor line on a right-hand turn near the top, giving Talansky the advantage he needed.
"Obviously I would have loved to take a little bit of time today, but Rafal is super strong and kept clawing his way back, put in a few attacks of his own," Talansky said.
"Once we were inside that last kilometre I have a pretty good sprint, so I thought about winning the stage rather than just continuing to attack, and that worked out pretty well. I do know this finish, which was definitely and advantage, so that worked out." It worked out for Cannondale-Drapac as well after the US WorldTour team had to watch US Continental team Rally Cycling earn a WorldTour win on Wednesday in the midst of the Cannondale drought.
"I'm happy that I was able to deliver, but really this belongs to the team," he said. "It was a full team effort, and not just the team here but the team placing their belief in me to give me the time I needed to get ready for this race. I don't think you'd find that in many places, so I really appreciated that support, and I'm just happy I was able to pay it back by bringing this stage win home today."
Talansky did himself a big favour in the general classification as well, moving from eighth to fourth, just 44 seconds behind Majka, ahead of Friday's 24km time trial at Big Bear Lake.