Talansky aims to slay Tour of California dragon

After three tough runs at the Amgen Tour of California, Andrew Talansky found his groove in 2016. He's aiming for the overall this year.

Andrew Talansky has unfinished business in the Amgen Tour of California. He’ll be the first to admit that his record in the weeklong U.S. stage race is inconsistent at best. For 2017, he’s heading to the race’s Sunday start in Sacramento with a bit more confidence and higher expectations.

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“I have kind of a love/hate relationship with the Tour of California,” Talansky, 28, admits.

Based in Napa, he has always wanted to deliver a big result in what is essentially a home race. Instead, he settled for 17th overall in his 2011 debut — “Just struggled a bit, never felt like I was really kind of firing on all cylinders,” Talansky said — and 41st overall in 2012, when he got sick in the final days of racing.

After two years away from the race he returned and had an even more dismal showing in 2015, abandoning in the first stage.

“What is it with me and this race? Why can’t I put it together here?” he asked himself rhetorically, thinking back to those three editions.

The Cannondale-Drapac rider was frustrated but not deterred from another run at California in 2016.

“Finally things clicked, I was building through the race, I felt like myself in a stage race,” he said, remembering last year’s edition. “I had such a good time with the team we had here. It was just good hard racing. It felt like a European stage race, which I like. Just hard, day after day. Hard, selective finishes. By the end of the week, people are on their hands and knees, basically.”

After a “low-key” approach to the 2016 race, riding most of the week to support teammate Lawson Craddock, Talansky ended up fourth overall. He was second in the stage 6 time trial as well, behind BMC’s Rohan Dennis.

For 2017, Talansky starts the seven-day event as outright team leader. This year, it’s clear he is riding for a result, not approaching the race with a “We’ll see what happens” attitude.

For a rider that prefers his stage races grueling, the route could be to his liking. “Looks like it’ll be tough racing with the decisive GC stages stacked towards the end, that always makes it a little more in favor of kind of real GC riders,” he said.

The queen stage comes late, stage 5 to Mount Baldy (1,964 meters) after 125.5km of racing. The next day, riders face a 24km, high-altitude time trial at Big Bear. Talansky, the 2015 U.S. national time trial champion, may be able to keep rivals in sight on Big Bear and then make his winning move in the stage 6 test.

“Obviously, it is a race I can do well at. It is in my wheelhouse,” Talansky added. “I wanted to give it a proper shot, rather than just writing it off — I had some not great experiences. Last year turned it around. I’m hoping for more of that this year.”

The Amgen Tour of California runs May 14-20.

Listen to our full conversation with Talansky on the VeloNews podcast: