Vuelta a Espana

Vaughters taps Talansky for Vuelta leadership

After winning in France last week, the young American will lead Garmin into Spain this weekend

Andrew Talansky will lead the Garmin-Sharp charge at the Vuelta a España, where the American will stand up against Chris Froome (Sky), Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) and defending champ Juan José Cobo (Movistar), among others.

During last month’s Tour de France, Garmin-Sharp boss Jonathan Vaughters tapped Talansky to lead his team’s GC efforts on a grueling Vuelta parcours that sticks to northern Spain and sees six mountaintop finishes and 13 climbing stages total.

“Our Vuelta team is going to be centered around Andrew Talansky,” Vaughters told VeloNews. “Our team is going to be very much centered around his ambitions.”

The 2012 Vuelta will mark Talansky’s first lead role at a grand tour, and it promises to be ferocious. Contador makes his return to the big tours after his doping suspension and Sky’s Froome — who demonstrated his climbing prowess in the Tour de France — will be looking to improve upon his second place at the Vuelta in 2011.

“Without a doubt, it’s going to be a lot of competition — very difficult,” Vaughters said. “But you know, Andrew’s a scrappy little bastard.”

Talansky won the fourth stage of the Tour de l’Ain in Septmoncel Friday and went on to win the overall the next day. He also finished second at this year’s Tour de Romandie in the spring. He was placed high as well at the Amgen Tour of California until the closing weekend, but suffered badly on the Mount Baldy stage, falling from contention. It was only recently revealed what happened to the 23-year-old all-rounder.

Talansky suffered a very strong asthmatic reaction to the pollution in the Los Angeles area, Vaughters said. “And he didn’t even know. All of the sudden, he just said: ‘I literally have to stop.’”

The team sent Talansky for tests and learned that his bronchial tubes were very constricted, and the swelling lasted for weeks after.

“He didn’t know. We didn’t know,” Vaughters said. “He’d never been racing a bike in the L.A. Basin before,” he said.

With his overall win last week, Talansky appears to be recovered from the ailment and will start just his second career grand tour on Saturday. He was 79th in the 2011 Vuelta and will look to improve dramatically on the more than two hours he lost in that race when he leads Garmin to what Vaughters hopes is his second grand tour podium of 2012.