BILBAO, Spain (VN) — Allan Peiper oozes enthusiasm about bike racing.
A former pro who was part of the famous “foreign legion” in the 1980s that helped bridge the gap between Europe and Australia, Peiper has grown to be one of the most savvy sport directors in cycling.
Since moving from High Road to Garmin-Sharp this season, Peiper has helped the U.S.-registered team on several fronts, including steering it to its first grand-tour victory with Ryder Hesjedal at the Giro d’Italia.
Peiper is equally enthused about this Vuelta and the chances of 24-year-old Andrew Talansky. The second-year pro is getting the chance to tackle a grand tour as a protected captain, something almost unheard for such a young rider.
But Peiper says Talansky’s natural talent, drive and ambition deserve the team’s support.
Despite a hiccup out of the gate, when four Garmin riders crashed in the team time trial and Talansky and his teammates finished tied for last in a discipline where Garmin usually shines, Peiper insists the Vuelta is just beginning.
Talansky made it through the opening two mountaintop finishes in good position, finishing with the favorites at both Arrate and Valdezcaray, and punched into the top 20 on GC.
VeloNews caught up with Peiper to talk Talansky, the Vuelta and who he thinks can win the red jersey in Madrid:
VeloNews: Garmin is not bringing one of its top GC riders, such as Hesjedal or Vande Velde, but you bring a young Talansky; what are the team’s GC hopes for the Vuelta?
Allan Peiper: I am interested in what you said, that we’re not bringing a team with a real GC rider. That’s what they said at the Giro as well (laughs) and we knocked off the Giro. We come here with the same idea. Andrew won the Tour de l’Ain last week. He had a good team around him. A lot of other teams were impressed with the ride he did. He finished Romandie just 16 seconds behind Wiggins. He’s a young kid, 24 years old, a lot of progression still to go. We come here to fully support him and see where he comes out on the other side of it, with the goal of the future.
VN: Talansky clearly hopes to develop into a grand-tour rider. Last year’s Vuelta was all about getting to Madrid. Is this too much pressure too soon on such a young rider?
AP: Finishing your first grand tour is always it for a first-year pro, no matter who you are. He finished the Vuelta last year, so he got a feel for the terrain and a feel what it’s like to be in a grand tour. So to be able to be the leader in Romandie and the Tour de l’Ain, and to knock that off, I think he comes into this with confidence and the teammates around him have confidence in him as well. Just one thing to remember: A lot of leaders and grand-tour winners take time to come into that role, no matter who they are. I think (Miguel) Indurain took four years before he got to the top and won the Tour. There’s a certain amount of time grand tour winners need. I think Andrew’s got a little bit of time yet, but it’s going to be very interesting to see where he comes out on the other side of this.
VN: This is a brutally hard Vuelta, with 10 mountaintop finishes. Is this team, with a lot of young riders, ready for such a brutal race?
AP: It’s going to be a hard Vuelta. All the boys here realize that. We have a lot of young guys here who want to prove themselves on the road and get some experience for the future, so in some ways, this is a ‘future’ Garmin team. How we take it in the future with Talansky, with Raymond Kreder, it will be interesting to see how they work well together. It’s all going to be about execution. It will also be an interesting to see how this team gels.
VN: Was this Vuelta just too mountainous to bring a sprinter? Farrar is not doing the Vuelta for the first time in a few years. …
AP: We made the choice to send Tyler to Utah and Colorado. He hasn’t done any American races in a few years and I think it will be good for his head. We need to throw guys like Raymond and Michel Kreder into a grand tour. Raymond beat (Edvald) Boasson Hagen and (Alessandro) Petacchi in Norway. There are no slouches in the sprint. If he can do that, he can be in contention for a stage win here.
VN: And Dekker?
AP: Thomas is here to work for Talansky, to build on his comeback, as it were. A couple of years out of the sport, it’s not easy to come back to the highest level. He won a stage earlier in the year at Circuit de la Sarthe. The goal is that he goes to the world team time trial championships and then the worlds for Holland if he’s chosen. He’s got a lot of reasons to ride good here. And see what a good teammate he can be.
VN: And the bigger GC picture, do you see this coming down to Chris Froome vs. Alberto Contador?
AP: Yes, Froome-Contador will be the big battle. You got a 16km team time trial and a 40km time trial later in the race, but I wouldn’t count out (Joachim) Rodríguez. It took the best Hesjedal to beat him. Purito did a fantastic last time trial in Milano. If he’s got enough gains in the mountaintop finishes and with the time bonuses, maybe with Contador, who knows? He still might be in there with a chance.