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Talansky learns to shed limitations at Romandie

Second-year Garmin pro has the fire back after second-place ride and is aiming for California then the Tour

Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Barracuda) is hoping his breakthrough second place at the Tour de Romandie kicks him to a higher level in the European peloton. The performance is validation for the rider whom many believe could be the next American to have success in grand tours.

The 23-year-old just missed victory in Sunday’s final-day time trial, losing to Bradley Wiggins (Sky) by less than one second, and earned his first major stage-race podium with second overall to Wiggins by 12 seconds.

Speaking to VeloNews by telephone after traveling from Switzerland to California, Talansky said he takes satisfaction in what comes as a major confirmation of his potential in the pro ranks.

“I am very excited and happy to finish second overall at the Tour de Romandie, and second to a rider of a caliber like Wiggins,” Talansky told VeloNews. “People have been telling me a long time I could do something like that. It’s one thing believing it and having the talent, but it’s another thing to put it into action.”

Following his promising debut last season, including a handful of top-10s and making it through a punishing Vuelta a España, Talansky’s second season in the bigs has been bumpy out of the gates. He fell ill at the Volta ao Algarve in February and then crashed at Tirreno-Adriatico.

Garmin-Barracuda told him to ease off the gas and get healthy again. He came into Romandie without pressure, but with the quiet confidence that he had the legs to perform.

With the team rallying around him at the WorldTour race, and riders such as Christian Vande Velde, Daniel Martin and David Zabriskie riding to protect him in the bunch, Talansky was able to save his legs for the decisive moments in the race.

“It did surprise me a little bit. To be second to Wiggins is a pretty huge result,” he said. “As the week progressed, I was feeling good on the climbs. Right from the prologue, I could tell I was back to my old self on the time trial bike. The team really supported me as the week went on. To have guys like Vande Velde working for me is a pretty crazy experience. Three years ago I was watching those guys ride into the top-10 at the Tour.”

One decision that was critical to his Romandie success was the call by Talansky and the team to race with the time trial bike instead of road bike on the final TT. The stage featured a heavy climb midway through the course, prompting many riders to forego the heavier TT setup in favor of a lighter road bike.

“I think Richie (Porte) might have been a second faster than me on the split, but I was 17 seconds faster on the second half of the course,” he said. “We made a good decision on the selection of the bike. I was close to Wiggins, but he also had some sort of mechanical, so the difference would have been eight or nine seconds, but that’s also part of bike racing.”

Stepping up

Second in the 2010 Tour de l’Avenir, Talansky says he quickly realized last year in his debut season that the speed, demands and intensity of racing at the top level were a major step up from what he saw at the U23 ranks.

Positioning is key to success in any race, something that Talansky says he has more appreciation for after racing in Europe. The support of his teammates was key at Romandie and he knows that he’s under pressure to deliver when the team is riding for him.

“You cannot explain that enough to people. In the United States, positioning is relatively easy. The roads are wide and the peloton is smaller. Over in Europe, at a WorldTour race, everyone is fighting everyday. Everyone wants to win a stage, to earn points, to finish in the top 10,” he said. “Even watching it on TV, people cannot understand what it’s like to race 60-70kph. It’s a full race to the bottom of the final climb. You can be the best climber in the world, but if you start 50 guys back, you’re never going to win.”

The big result bolsters Talansky’s confidence and provides him with some tangible evidence that he might have what it takes to strive for even bigger things in the coming years.

“It showed me when I am doing things right and doing my work, there’s no reason I cannot be at the front, to go for a podium or a stage win,” he said. “When things go a little harder, you lose sight of that sometimes. It’s good to get that belief and that fire back. I learned to not put limits on myself and not to put people on a pedestal.”

California and maybe the Tour

Talansky is already home in Santa Clara, California, and is preparing for the Tour of California. For Garmin-Barracuda, winning California is one of the paramount goals for the team this season, and Talansky said the team is ready to take on all challengers.

“We’re going there to win the race. It doesn’t matter with who, we just want to win California,” he said. “We will have a lot of cards to play, with myself, Tommy D (Danielson) and Zabriskie. Last year, RadioShack had Horner and Leipheimer, and they finished one-two.”

After California, he will return to Europe to race the Critérium du Dauphiné in early June.

Talansky’s Romandie ride could also have other implications; it could earn him a ticket to the Tour de France. Garmin-Barracuda sport director Alan Peiper already confirmed to VeloNews that Talansky is on the long list for consideration to make the team’s nine-man Tour selection.

While Talansky wants to get to the Tour, he’s not worrying about it too much right now.

“I know I will do a grand tour this year. Whether it’s the Tour or the Vuelta, that’s up to the management to decide,” he said. “Obviously, my goal is to get to the Tour, because it’s a race I want to do well in some day. All I can do is show up to the races in the best shape I can be and let them decide.”

Team manager Jonathan Vaughters has been a big supporter of Talansky, signing him to a deal after watching him race in 2010 at the Tour of the Gila as an amateur with the California Giant-Specialized team.

Vaughters even wrote on Twitter last week that he calls Talansky the “pit bull.”

“That’s fairly accurate,” the California native said with a laugh. “When I set my mind to something, I get focused on it and it is pretty much all-consuming. From the moment he signed me to the team, he’s always believed that I am capable of getting some big results. JV’s been telling me this would happen for a while.”

After the long trip back to the United States, Talansky isn’t resting on his laurels or hitting the bars to celebrate his success at Romandie.

“The celebrating will have to wait,” he said. “The next focus is California and that starts in less than two weeks. I’ve done everything right the last months, so when you have the momentum, it’s easy to keep it going.”