Could Andrew Talansky break into the top five overall of the Vuelta a Espana? Cannondale-Drapac management is hopeful that the 27-year-old American might achieve his best Grand Tour finish to date in the Spanish race.
Talansky already finished seventh in the Vuelta in 2012, his best overall result to date in a Grand Tour. Prior to Friday's time trial, he is currently sixth overall in the Vuelta, 7:34 behind Nairo Quintana (Movistar) but just 1:33 down on Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange), in fifth place.
"I think there's a space for improvement, cycling's an unpredictable game, and until the last metre is done you can't see the result, but I think he'll do a good time trial, he can get into the top five," Cannondale-Drapac sports director Johnny Weltz told Cyclingnews prior to stage 18.
"He's very good against the clock, the course and distance is good, and it should be a very good result for him."
As for Saturday's mountain-top stage, Weltz argued that "Normally a long climb like Aitana will suit him more than the shorter, steeper finishes, but it's after the TT, it can take you a while to get back to the rhythm of racing a road bike.
"It's 20 kilometres, and the other guys will play his cards so he can too. There could be things to gain, although maybe not a huge amount."
One factor in his favour compared to three of the riders ahead of him on GC is freshness. Weltz says is that it's "definitely an advantage his not having not done the Tour. There's no reason for him not to be super-motivated, and to recover faster because you haven't punished your body so badly.
"The only thing is it can be harder to build your way up to top form because you've had a different kind of season to the guys coming out of the Tour. But once you hit top condition, I think you hold it for longer."
Following the Vuelta a Espana, Talansky's program is "undecided" Weltz says, but he believes that Talansky "should do as much as possible of the rest of the season. I think that would make sense."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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