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Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) won’t be on many bookies’ favorites lists for this year’s Tour de France, but the odds are sure to rise in the coming years.
Talansky’s first Tour is now on the horizon, and it’s the Tour that he hopes will be playing the central focus of his career over the next decade.
Just getting to the start line in Corsica later this month is a major accomplishment for the third-year pro. Though Garmin’s official Tour lineup has yet to be released, Talansky has every expectation to be there.
“The morning after the Dauphiné, I was reflecting on that. Just four years ago, I was racing some U23 races, no one knew who I was. Now I am about to start my first Tour,” Talansky told VeloNews via telephone. “It’s easy to get caught up, but when you step back, it’s big. It’s the culmination of a childhood dream. First I dreamed of becoming a professional cyclist, then going to the Tour. Now it’s coming true. It’s pretty special.”
Talansky has quietly been working his way up the ladder. After capturing the attention of Garmin boss Jonathan Vaughters at the Tour of the Gila in 2010, Talansky joined the team as a neo-pro the following year.
Some encouraging results and strong rides over the past few seasons in the pro ranks confirmed his talent, including the overall at the 2012 Tour de l’Ain, seventh overall in last year’s Vuelta a España, and a stage win, the leader’s jersey and second overall at Paris-Nice in March.
After battling through illness at the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this month, Talansky finished off the race with a promising third in the mountaintop stage at Risoul, matching pedal strokes with the Sky duo of Chris Froome and Richie Porte.
After cooling his jets at altitude in Spain’s Sierra Nevada, Talansky will travel to Corsica next week to start the Tour with realistic goals and ambitions.
“The Tour is the Tour. You have to be respectful of that. Being my first one, even more so. You have to learn a race before you can win a race,” he said. “I want to be as consistent as I can over three weeks. We have to see how Ryder [Hesjedal] is feeling, but we have guys who can climb.
“I will take whatever I get when it ends up in Paris. In the future, I will lay out more specific goals. First, I want to ride the race, learn about the madness of the first week, help the team, and make it to Paris.”
Talansky and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) represent the future of grand tour racing for American fans. Van Garderen has already proven his ability, riding to a superb fifth overall last year and the best young rider’s jersey.
Van Garderen will be riding as a protected rider, lining up with BMC teammate Cadel Evans with co-captain status.
Talansky, meanwhile, will be part of Garmin’s multi-pronged attack that will include 2012 Giro d’Italia winner Hesjedal, along with other likely starters, such as Christian Vande Velde, Tom Danielson, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Daniel Martin.
For Talansky, it’s about learning the Tour, arriving to Paris, and soaking up cycling’s most important stage race.
“I feel excited. Even lining up in the Vuelta last year, there wasn’t that huge sense of excitement. With the Tour, as it gets closer, I will be actually excited,” he said. “The goal has always been to show up as physically fit as I can be. That looks to be on track. It’s my first Tour. I want to get to the finish line in Paris. I am very excited to be lining up.”
‘No one close to Froome’
After witnessing many of the top Tour contenders face off during the Dauphiné, Talansky has no doubt about who the man to beat is in July.
“To be honest, I don’t see anybody who can touch Chris Froome,” he said. “At the Dauphiné, we saw what will probably be Sky’s Tour team. Every single rider looked incredible. And Richie is a podium contender. I respect what they’ve done as a team.”
Talansky also watched as Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) could do little to rattle Froome and Team Sky. Although Contador said he was suffering from allergies and later rode to support teammate’s Michael Rogers’ failed bid for the podium, Contador seemed a step off Froome’s form.
“[Contador] rode a smart race. He knows he cannot beat Froome in a straight up drag race. He cannot just ride harder and harder and drop those guys. He has to attack. That’s what he tried to do at the Dauphiné,” Talansky said. “I would say that Contador is Froome’s most dangerous rival. We saw him in last year’s Vuelta. He can make intelligent tactical decisions on the fly that can win an entire race. Physically, Froome has nothing to worry about from Contador.”
Other top challengers were there as well, including Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol).
Talansky walked away with one clear impression.
“Froome’s just better,” he said. “Everyone looked similar; Contador, Valverde, [Dani] Moreno, Purito, Rogers, they were all there. When Froome goes, Richie is there. They are just one notch above the others.”
The bookmakers seem to agree. Froome is the heavy favorite, with 8-to-11 odds, meaning you have to bet 11 to win eight.
Talansky’s odds? 100-to-1.