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No regrets about skipping the Tour and electing to ride the Vuelta instead.

Photo: Sirotti

ANDREW TALANSKY

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31.07.2016 @ 08:44 Posted by Jesper Ralbjerg

While watching his Cannondale – Drapac teammates suffer at the dominance displayed by Team Sky at this year’s Tour de France, Andrew Talansky spent time in Truckee, California, training for the upcoming Vuelta a España, the grand tour he has elected to race this year instead of the Tour. Watching the Tour broadcast was done without any trace of regret, mind you.

 

 “There was no part of watching it that was bittersweet, or made me wish I was racing it,” Talansky told Velonews. “I enjoyed being a spectator. From day one there was no part of me that was second guessing my decision not to go.”

 

Talansky explained that he is at peace with his choice to miss the Tour. He believes that giving himself three months of solid training will help him regain his top form — something he has not achieved since 2014.

 

“It just feels like a long time since I’ve ridden at the level that I know I’m capable of,” Talansky said.

 

Illness, crisis and crashes

Since the start of the 2015 season, Talansky has been dogged by recurring illnesses, a family crisis, and crashes galore. Watching him on the road, one might be forgiven for thinking that he had entered races looking to grab quick bursts of fitness, rather than to be triumphant. It is not the route Talansky prefers, but for two seasons, he played along, hoping that a miracle burst of form would come his way. It never did.

 

This year, though, Talansky made a measured, premeditated decision to forego the world’s biggest bike race in favour of the Vuelta. Now, Talansky is betting that Spain’s grand tour, running August 20 through September 11, will serve as his catalyst back into the small circle of grand tour contenders.

 

“I never want to race unless I’m at my absolute best,” Talansky elaborated. “And the last time I was really at my best was the 2014 Tour de France, and I didn’t even get anything to show for it.”

 

The last big result on Talansky’s palmares dates back to 2014 when he won the Criterium du Dauphine.

 

“That was this huge honour — a huge honour for my career and my life,” Talansky said. “When an opportunity presents itself, you’re going to try and win a race like that.”

 

However, after crashing out of the 2014 Tour, Talansky's career has had the look of a downward spiral although he won the 2015 U.S. National Time Trial Championship and finished 11th at the Tour de France. For the majority of any peloton, such results would be regarded as career defining moments. For Talansky, not so much. They are the embodiment of his bad form, which resulted from a lingering infection that he caught during that year’s Amgen Tour of California.

 

“I was nowhere near 100 percent of what I’m capable of that year,” Talanksy said. “I pulled it together for TT nationals and was strong during the third week [of the Tour de France].”

 

Swiss resurgence not enough

Talansky’s 2016 winter and spring campaigns went steadily from bad to worse. He lost three weeks of training in February to deal with his unspecified family crisis. A crash and sickness during Paris-Nice kept him out of the Volta a Catalunya, an important form-building race for Tour hopefuls. He then bombed at the Tour de Romandie, where he previously held all-star status.

 

That’s when Talansky and team manager Vaughters decided to pull the plug on the Tour de France. They left the door open, if Talansky’s form somehow materialized during the Tour de Suisse. The American walked away with fifth place overall. Fifth place in the time trial. Top-10 finishes on all the climbing stages. Nonetheless, the door to the Tour remained firmly shut.

 

“Suisse was built off of Romandie, [the Tour of] California, and some training — I showed that I can still time trial but there wasn’t any kind of foundation for repeated hard efforts,” Talansky explained. “After the race I was completely exhausted. There was nothing in the tank. I knew that it was the right decision to skip [the Tour de France].”

 

Talansky is hardly among the favourites for the Vuelta win, or even the podium. Just take a glance at the competition he will face: Chris Froome (Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), talented up-and-comer Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL – Jumbo), and Esteban Chaves (Orica – BikeExchange). The race features 10 summit finishes, and with the cast of explosive climbers, Talansky will endure a challenge.

 

Talansky is 27 years old, which is middle age for a grand tour contender. He just signed another deal with Cannondale – Drapac, which will make him the team’s grand tour rider for at least two more seasons. He insists that he has plenty of good years left in his legs. He says he still believes he has the strength to win a grand tour, perhaps even the Tour de France.

 

Going into the Vuelta, where he finished 7th overall in 2012, Talansky remains optimistic.

 

“If you don’t have the belief that you’re capable of winning the Tour de France, then you don’t get to a very high level in this sport. Whether or not it actually happens is something else. There are just so many things you can’t control.”

 

 

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