HUESCA, Spain (VN) – Andrew Talansky stepped off the Garmin-Sharp bus Friday afternoon to apply thick layers of sunscreen to his thin arms before the start of the seventh stage.
With temperatures nearing 100F, the blistering Spanish sun is putting the hurt on everyone so far through the action-packed first week of the Vuelta a España. But Talansky is playing it cool.
On Thursday’s explosive hilltop finale up the Rapitán climb, the Garmin-Sharp rider ceded some time, but limited his losses against the likes of GC leader Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) and Chris Froome (Sky).
“My thing is consistency for three weeks, so I just did what I could (Thursday). Those kinds of climbs have always been hard for me. I think every year I am getting better at it,” Talansky said Friday. “I think Andorra’s a little better for me, when it’s longer. The way Saxo Bank and Sky have been riding, putting guys at the front and making it hard, that’s good for me. I hope I can stay there.”
“Staying there” is the mantra for Talansky during this Vuelta.
Despite a costly crash in the opening team time trial in Pamplona, when four Garmin teammates hit the deck, Talansky has otherwise gotten through the first week of the 2012 Vuelta in solid condition.
Quietly tucked into the top 20 going into Saturday’s first major climbing stage in Andorra, Talansky said he’s satisfied with his performance so far through the Vuelta.
Garmin sport director Allan Peiper said Talansky is taking his first experience as the GC captain in stride. No one is expecting Talansky to win the Vuelta in just his second grand-tour start, but no one is holding him back, either.
Peiper said Talansky has a free ride during this Vuelta, allowing the second-year pro a chance to learn how to ride as a protected captain for three weeks and push his body to new limits.
“In the general scheme of things, he’s holding really well,” Peiper said. “We’ve had three hilltop finishes in six stages, so that bodes well for what’s coming up. He’s finished around 10th place every time; that shows that he’s got the form.”
This Vuelta is a natural stepping-stone for Talansky, who has already been impressive through his first two seasons as a pro. Last year in his rookie season, he notched a handful of top-10s and made it through a grueling Vuelta.
For 2012, Talansky has stepped up his game even more, riding to second place behind eventual Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins (Sky) at the Tour de Romandie in May and then winning his first European stage race at the Tour de l’Ain ahead of the Vuelta.
Those kinds of results helped persuade Peiper and Garmin team boss Jonathan Vaughters to build the Vuelta team around Talansky.
Heading into Saturday’s first major climb, Talansky said he’s trying to remain focused on the day’s task at hand.
“No crashes, no bad mechanicals. It’s smooth so far. It’s a long race,” he said. “I am taking it day by day, and just focus on each day and get through it as best I can.
“I do have some ambitions, whether that’s fighting for 30th place or fifth place, we’ll see, but the point this year is to learn the mental aspect of being switched on for three weeks,” he continued. “If I do have a rough day, learning how to fight through that and not losing motivation if you’re not always in the front. That’s going to be building toward the future.”
Peiper also stressed that it’s the future that Talansky is building during this Vuelta. That’s not to say he’s not going to push it when it comes crunch time, but the team knows that any young rider needs the balance of having opportunities, yet not too much pressure.
So far, Peiper says the team is impressed with Talansky’s ride.
“He’s never really been in trouble. He’s ridden within himself. Tomorrow will be crucial for him moving up,” Peiper said. “His mind is a lot on the TT next week and that will be a big factor in his GC standing for the rest of the race.”
Moving up – that’s the key word for Talansky, both during this Vuelta and in the coming years. How far he moves up the Vuelta GC will be played out in the coming days.