With no room in the Tour de France line up for David Millar, the nine riders in Leeds form the new guard at Garmin-Sharp, with former Paris-Roubaix Johan Vansummeren now the oldest and most experienced rider in the squad. Gone are the senators of the team such as Millar, Vande Velde, Zabriskie and Danielson. Riders now secure their place on merit and fitness as team manager Jonathan Vaughters and senior directeur sportif made very clear during the team's pre-race press conference.
"This year we are tightening it up considerably, our race strategy is very singularly focused to obtain the highest possible place in the GC (with Talansky). The focus of these nine guys is trying to get Andrew in the best position possible," Vaughters said clearly.
Talansky made his Tour de France debut in 2013, finishing 10th overall. He's has developed rapidly in the last 12 months and won the Criterium du Dauphine in June, beating Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
True to character, he is ambitious but with moderation and intelligence.
"It'd be presumptuous to come here and say you're here to win the Tour unless you're name is Chris Froome or Alberto Contador. My placing might be 10th or first, but we are going to have to wait until Paris to see what happens," Talansky said.
"Last year was my first Tour de France. It lived up to the hype. Mentally and physically it proved to be one of the hardest races in the world. This time I have a good idea of how much it'll hurt over the course of three weeks. It won't be so much of a shock going to the mountains and into the second week."
Talansky sees winning the recent Dauphine as a good omen, not a sign that he has peaked too soon.
"The last two Tour winners have won the Dauphine. It's good for me. I said that I wanted to continue my preparation for the Tour via the Dauphine. I didn't know that my fitness would allow me to win, but it did. I could have been 10th and still be in a good physical state, so I'm not concerned about my fitness at all," he said.
Talansky knows that the size of the Tour de France challenge but has a plan to face the difficulties.
"There are always challenges in this sport, in every race, year," he said with wisdom beyond his years.
"No matter how well prepared you are, you have challenges you have to overcome challenges. It's what this sport is about."
"In the last few years the team has had faith in the plan. JV (Vaughters) has always been supportive and I've always had support in this team. I'd never have got anywhere, in the Vuelta in 2012 (when he finished seventh overall) at Paris-Nice last year (where he won a stage and finished second overall) and at the Dauphine without them. It's because of the team, not only about me. There are always rough patches and crashes. It's a cliché but you have to believe in yourself, in the process and what you're doing."
Talansky is still only 25 but knows he represents a new generation of US riders along with Tejay van Garderen of BMC.
"Responsibility is a good word," he said when asked about replacing Lance Armstrong in the eyes of US cycling fans.
"There's myself and Tejay, and we also have Alex Howes and Ben King on this team. We have the responsibility to represent a new generation of cycling for the US, clean cycling, give them something to believe in."
Building a new team for the future
Vaughters revealed that he had begun to rebuild his team in 2013 as Talansky and Daniel Martin formed a cornerstone for the Grand Tours and less importance was put on success in the Classics. That process accelerates much faster with Talansky this year even though Martin will miss the Tour due to his Giro d'Italia crash.
Vaughters asked Talansky if he could reveal that the American had agreed a new contract but was happy to then announce the news, confirming that team sponsorship, possibly new sponsorship from brands other than Garmin and Sharp, has been secured for 2015 and beyond.
"We're at start of a long term project," Vaughters revealed.
"Andrew has extended his contract for a couple of years and were starting to put the back bone of the new team in place. I've always had this belief in Andrew that he can become one of top GC riders in the world. This team is growing incredibly this year and it’s the first building block for the next two or three years. We're building for the future. I want these riders to be part of future and contend for a Grand Tour podium."
Vaughters refused to give details but assured the future of the team was safe.
"Well can't talk specifics but I wouldn't sign a contract with Andrew if the situation is not in a good place. There's more to come on that but you're going to have to wait. Sorry," he said.
Talansky was rumoured to be high on Team Sky's wish list as it also builds for the future and looked to please US sponsor 21st Century Fox. However Talansky preferred to stay with Vaughters.
"This is the first year I didn’t have a contract because I signed for three years and then extended with them," Talansky explained.
"While it's nice to see interest from other teams, when we sat down and looked at the future and how we want to get there, It was very obvious that this is the team for me. This team is where I started and why I got where I am and at the Tour de France racing with Contador and Froome. I'm very happy here and happy I can call it my home for other two years."
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