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SAN LUIS, Argentina (VN) — 2016 couldn’t come fast enough for Andrew Talansky. A year after a career-defining win at the Critérium du Dauphiné, his 10th-place finish in that race was his only GC top 10 in 2015.
January is a time of refreshed hopes across the peloton, so it’s no surprise that the American is looking relaxed at the Tour de San Luis, kicking off his season with a clean slate. But there’s more to it than that. Talansky is confident that he has addressed the problems of 2015 head-on and constructed a plan for 2016 that will get him back to the top.
“2015 was not a great year for me personally,” Talanksy told VeloNews in San Luis, Argentina ahead of the opening stage of the race. “It wasn’t the best year for the team as a whole. It was a lot of us — myself personally and the team — trying to fight back, trying to get some results, getting a few things here and there, but overall, personally it did not live up to the expectations that I had and that the team had.
“I think that when you’re in this sport, that’s just the way it’s going to be some years. If you do this 10 years, 15 years, whatever it is, you’re not going to have every year go the way you would like it to. And I would say that it is true, the kind of cliché that you learn more from when things don’t go right than when they go exactly as you’d hoped they would, down to the fact that you really sit down and take the time to analyze everything, pinpoint what exactly went right, what went wrong, and what needs to be changed.”
After a year like 2015, Talansky’s offseason was bound to involve adjustments. But first, he needed a break.
“Coming out of 2015, I was exhausted; I was tired; I was sick and destroyed by the end of the Vuelta when I left with a few days to go,” he said. “I went home. I took a week off the bike, and then I rode my bike for fun for two more weeks, actually, and enjoyed myself.
“There’s not many times of the year where we’re just riding our bikes without any specific goals, a specific race we’re preparing for. Even when you get on the bike in November, you’re starting for the season. So that was nice. Two weeks of relaxed riding, I took a very traditional break in October, I met up with the team in Aspen at the end of October for all our meetings, and from there, there was a lot of positive energy and momentum. … It felt like a complete refresh.”
That training camp allowed Talansky to investigate every aspect of his approach to determine what went wrong in 2015, an objective that Talansky is confident he achieved — though he is playing it close to the chest as to what, exactly, he found.
“We had a bunch of one-on-one time with the sports scientist, with a nutritionist, with directors, everybody altogether in Aspen,” Talansky said. “We made some significant changes — I’m not really going to dive into everything that they are; I think you’re just going to see it out on the road this year.”
Talansky has invested in an analytical approach to training for the new year. He says he prefers to ride “from the heart” when the racing gets underway, but he is hoping that setting clear, methodical training goals this offseason will help him find consistency.
“I’m working very closely with Sebastian Weber, the sports scientist for the team, and he’s a very, very intelligent individual. He’s worked with a lot of different teams. He’s a very personable guy, but he’s also very numbers-oriented. He knows there are certain things that you need to be able to do, certain numbers that you need to be able to hit. We could say ‘I want to go win Paris-Nice,’ or ‘I want to go ride on the podium in the Tour,’ and there are just facts that are unavoidable — you need to be able to do certain numbers in training to have a shot at doing that. … I think if we can do that, then we can achieve some great things.”
How great? Talansky won’t constrain himself with long-term predictions.
“I think one thing I’ve seen this winter that’s true — and that Sebastian Weber, as numbers-oriented as he is, is a very big fan of saying — is that you can’t put limits on things. You have to see what you can do,” Talansky said. “You think, ‘This is the max power I can do on a climb. This is the lowest weight I can race at,’ whatever. That might be true this month, this year, but it doesn’t mean that it’s true in four years, or four months.
“Things are constantly changing in the sport, and with what you’re capable of, and I think at 27 years old, it’s four or five years until I reach the full physical peak of what I can do.”
Whatever heights he might reach in that timeframe, Talansky feels that his offseason approach has put him in a strong starting position for 2016. “I’ve been 10th in the Tour, I’ve been 11th in the Tour, I’ve been seventh in the Vuelta. And all of those results were with a lot of hiccups,” he said.
“When I say hiccups, I mean from November 1 through July 1, there have been many, many things where you could say ‘This whole month as a little off. This didn’t go right,’ and a lot of that comes down to the winter that you put in. This year has been very consistent, exactly what we were hoping for so far.”
The Tour de San Luis is the first racing stop on Talansky’s road to what he hopes will be a July to remember, though Talansky sees the UCI 2.1 race as more of an opportunity to support teammates, like 2014 runner-up Phil Gaimon, than to nab a big win for himself. In any case, it’s all part of a plan, and it’s a plan that Talanksy has been pleased with so far.
“It’s January, we’re not into the meat of the spring races with Paris-Nice and Catalunya and Romandie yet, but everything feels like it’s on track,” he said. “I’m still very motivated, the whole team is motivated, and you can see that by the fact that I’m coming down here and starting my season earlier than I ever have. I was champing at the bit to get racing and get back into it, put 2015 behind me and get off to a nice smooth start in 2016. And that’s what I’m here to do.”