Andrew Talansky had a breakthrough ride at the...

Vaughters: ‘I didn’t know who the hell Talansky was’

American Andrew Talansky's chance meeting with Jonathan Vaughters set him on his way to leading Garmin's Tour team

DOVER, England (VN) — Andrew Talansky is in the driver’s seat of Garmin-Sharp’s Tour de France team and showing how far he has come since a chance meeting with general manager Jonathan Vaughters.

“I met him in the Tour of the Gila in 2010 when I was riding for California Giant,” Talansky told VeloNews. “We talked, and soon after I had a contract.”

The 25-year-old from Miami had to ride away to start the London stage of the Tour de France on Monday and could not afford much time to explain the meeting in greater detail. However, that early May day was crucial to the place that he finds himself now.

The Garmin team presented him as its leader at the Tour and announced that he signed for two more years with the team, through 2016. The meeting in southern New Mexico was clearly important.

“On a Sunday morning, this guy who used to help support our under-23 team asked if I wanted to fly down and watch the final day of the Tour of the Gila,” Vaughters said. “I thought, ‘Why not?’ He told me to meet him at the airport where he’d have his airplane ready.

“We flew down to a small abandoned airport, land on an abandoned runway and pull up next to an enormous Gulfstream sitting there – Lance Armstrong’s jet. That year in Gila, Lance, Levi Leipheimer and David Zabriskie were there and then there’s this kid who doesn’t have anyone feeding him, no mechanic, no teammates and he’s fourth overall, but I didn’t know who the hell he was.”

“It was a 120-mile stage in the mountains in southern New Mexico, so it’s hot. He puts up his bottle to see if someone else will give him a bottle. I felt sorry for him so I drove up and gave him one. He said, ‘Thank you so much! I don’t have anyone feeding me! I don’t know what to do!'”

Talansky signaled his arrival in cycling with the bottle in the air. He finished sixth overall, talked to Vaughters and said thanks, and after successful races in Europe – including second overall in the Tour de L’Avenir – he had a contract to race for Garmin in 2011. This year, he leads its Tour team after winning one of cycling’s biggest stage races, the Critérium du Dauphiné in June.

“He’s focused and a very intelligent guy. As long as he keeps his temper in check, he’s exactly what you want for a Tour leader,” Vaughters added.

“He has all the psychological characteristics to be one of the best, but he had to develop the social dynamic in the team where the others are ready to die for him. It’s little things, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ over and over, helping the others in the races that he’s not targeting — or even making a teammate a cup of coffee.”

Vaughters saw Talansky’s explosive power during their first meeting but over the last three years, he helped him develop his engine.

“The ability to race hard for four hours and then put out the power for 20 minutes,” said Vaughters. “It comes with training and having done a Tour before.”

The results – seventh in the Vuelta a España in 2012, 10th in the Tour in 2013 and the Dauphiné win – are slowly proving that has what it takes to fight for a Tour de France title.