GIRONA, Spain (VN) — Andrew Talansky begins the 2011 season with Garmin-Cervélo after a successful year with the U.S. national team and the Cal Giant amateur squad, where he performed well enough in stage races that Jonathan Vaughters was compelled to sign the U-23 rider to a three year contract.
Talansky, who will be writing a rider diary for VeloNews throughout the 2011 season, took some time out to talk with us at the team camp about the transition from racing in the states to joining a team bursting with Tour de France stars and a new world champion.
Q. You’ve just had a huge step up in programs this year, from a great development-oriented amateur team (Cal Giant) to one of the highest-profile ProTeams in the world, Garmin-Cervélo. What does this graduation mean to you?
A. It’s a great feeling. Everything in cycling, and life, is about progression. For the last few years it’s been little steps forward. This is a huge step. But last year I went from smaller pro teams in the U.S. to Cal Giant to reassess and regroup. I found an environment where I was real happy. I focused on racing my bike and being surrounded by great people and after a few years of looking I found that. It helped me get the results I got last year. It makes getting great results a lot easier.
Q. This isn’t your first time racing in Europe — you spent a good deal of the 2010 season here with the U.S. national team. Tell me how acclimated you are to racing here.
A. The first time I came over here was with Amore Vita in 2009 and it was an eye-opening experience. You romanticize Europe a little bit as a young cyclist: Everyone wants to race in Europe, race the Tour. You associate a “professional” team with good organization, with things like that. Just professional, you know? And when you see the reality of things at that level it’s a bit of an eye-opener, and it really makes you determine if cycling is what you want to be doing. That first trip over to Europe tested that for me. It gave me the feeling that if I could deal with what I dealt with on my first trip over here, then there was nothing that could make me quit this sport. No crash, no obstacle, no injury, nothing that I will ever face could make me quit this sport. Once you have that confidence, it’s not a matter of “Am I gonna make it, what do I have to do?” You just have the end goal in mind. Once I realized I wanted to come back to Europe, I like Europe, but I wanted to come back on a team like Garmin-Cervélo, and that’s what I got to do (in 2010) with the U.S. national team. I got to do the best U-23 stage races in the world. I wasn’t doing kermesses in Belgium, I wasn’t doing one-day races on cobbles that didn’t suit me. I was getting to do the races where I really excel. That second experience (in Europe) was really positive.
Q. Who from Garmin-Cervélo noticed you and when did they give you the call?
A. It was Jonathan Vaughters himself. Lucky for me, there were a couple ProTour directors in the cars at (2010) Tour of Gila because of the Mellow Johnny’s and DZ Nuts composite teams being there. That ride, on paper, was good (Talansky finished sixth overall), but what I think was more important for Vaughters was being in the car behind me, watching me climb. You can tell a lot about a rider by watching him ride. Results say something, a video says something, but they don’t tell the whole story. I introduced myself to him after that last stage. It was kinda brief and he was leaving. I won the Joe Martin prologue the following week and that started our conversations.
Q. Normally the first week of March you’d be racing in California’s Central Valley, in Merced at the Merco Classic. Where will you be the first week of March this year and what does that change feel like?
A. Last year I was in Merced California; this year I’ll be in Murcia, Spain. It’s quite a jump. It’s exciting and one I’m ready for. It’s fond memories, though. It’s a little mind-blowing for me to look back at a year and think where I am now, that I’ll be racing in Mercia with guys who will be racing in the Tour de France. I’m really excited about that. I could race for the next 15 years and be racing with great riders, riders who could win the Tour, but it doesn’t mean I’ll be on a team with a world champion. I know I get to do a few races with him and that’ll be a cool feeling.
Q. What does this mean to you to be able to tell your family you’re racing on a ProTeam? Is there a history of successful athletes in your family? Will they be coming over to Europe with “GO ANDREW!” signs?
A. I think we might see a few signs this year! I don’t come from a history of great athletes, but my mom, my dad have always been athletic. My dad has ridden, always for fun, never competitively, but now he rides more seriously, three or four hours each day on the weekend, does the Levi Gran Fondo — it’s pretty cool. My mom does triathlons but purely just for fun, never professionally or with professional plans. So I grew up in an environment of fitness. My parents, my friends and my family and the people who are really close to me … when you get on a team like this and when you’re in races and things are really hard, everybody draws inspiration from something and for me it’s them. For my friends, my parents, my girlfriend and her parents, it makes them happy. I think makes them happy as me. Because for the last two, three years even they supported my decision to leave school to race my bike. I had to pay my own way to races in the U.S. and that was only possible because friends, my family, for some reason believed in me. There’ve been a few times when you doubt in yourself and they’re the ones that a little different perspective and they’re the ones who remind you can do this.
Q. Cal Giant’s Anthony Gallino has built one of the best amateur development teams in the U.S. What was the conversation like when you told him you were going to come here?
A. I was always very open with Anthony. I didn’t talk to many people about what was going on and about contracts but Anthony I always talked to. He was somebody I could trust to not say a word to anybody about it. He was really excited, he was really happy I had my agent Todd Hancock to look out for me because I was younger and hadn’t gone through that process before. He loves cycling but he’s a businessman first. His view isn’t biased because he doesn’t make his living through cycling. I think it opened people’s eyes a little bit about just what those programs can do.
Q. Undoubtedly in the last week you’ve received bags and bags of team gear, swag and you’re riding one of the best bikes in the pro peloton, a Cervélo S3 equipped with SRAM Red. What’s some of your favorite new stuff?
A. When you get on a team like this, there’s no way to compare it to other teams. When you make it this level you hear about the stories — “You’re going to have so much stuff you’re not going to know what to do with it!” — it’s really true. And it’s great stuff. It’s not like you get something and think, “What am I supposed to do with this?” It’s awesome, we have clothes … like you’d walk into a store and say “Wow, it’d be really nice to have that,” and now that’s our clothing sponsor.
Q. What’s the team bus like? Who has reserved spots?
What happens if you take Thor’s place by accident?
A. It’s awesome. One of the other riders said, “You know, you’re probably going to have to go a race and not have the bus, and you’ll be wondering ‘What do I do without the bus?’” I just laughed because there was a time I was racing out of the back of my car and had bikes and clothes and wheels in there. It’s obviously part of the sport at this level and we have an exceptionally cool one. I have to find out who has designated spaces. I’m probably going to walk on the bus, wait for everybody else to sit down and then find a spot.