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American grand-tour rookies Andrew Talansky, Matthew Busche fight to make it to Madrid in 2011 Vuelta a España

2011 Vuelta a España, stage 14, Matthew Busche
Matthew Busche says that if he can make it to the rest day, he can make it to Madrid. Photo: Andrew Hood

POLA DE SOMIEDO, Spain (VN) — Nearly two weeks into the hardest Vuelta a España ever, two American grand-tour rookies are fighting tooth and nail to make it all the way to Madrid.

For Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Cervélo) and Matthew Busche (RadioShack), making it to the finish line in Spain’s capital on September 11 would mean more than a personal milestone; it would prove that both have the grit to not only finish their grand-tour debuts, but do so against a brutal course in harsh conditions.

Each made it up the tough Farrapona on Saturday, with Talansky finishing in a group at 21:22 and Busche with the next group at 23:52.

Standing between them and Madrid is one week of racing and Europe’s hardest climb at the Angliru, which comes Sunday.

For Busche, the math is simple.

“If I make it to the rest day (Monday), I will make it to Madrid,” Busche told VeloNews at Saturday’s start in Astorga. “I’ve been hanging in there. It’s been very hard. I am taking it day to day. I hear the Angliru is very hard.”

Both Talansky and Busche were named to the U.S. world championship squad on Friday, with Talansky set to ride the time trial as well.

Racing their first Vuelta has been a learning experience for both. Busche has been helping team captains Haimar Zubeldia and Jani Brajkovic while Talansky has usually been the last man for Garmin-Cervélo’s Daniel Martin on the climbs.

“It’s been a hard Vuelta. There are times during every stage when you feel real good, then 20 minutes later you’re not so good. Today I went through my personal hell,” Talansky said at the finish line Friday in Ponferrada.

2011 Vuelta a España, stage 14, Andrew Talansky
Andrew Talansky said he endured his own personal hell on Saturday, but hopes to emerge from the Vuelta a stronger rider. Photo: Andrew Hood

“This is the longest I’ve ever raced before. I can feel the fatigue in my body and legs, but I am happy with it. The whole point is to get to the line in Madrid, soak it all up and get stronger from it.”

If the pair can survive the Angliru on Sunday, the Vuelta’s second rest day on Monday couldn’t come at a better time.

From there, it would be “only” six days to Madrid.

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