PAMPLONA, Spain (VN) — Perhaps it was inevitable for Garmin-Sharp.
After having an almost golden run in team time trials in grand tours over the past few years, including victories and leader’s jerseys at the Giro d’Italia (2008) and Tour de France (2011), luck turned against them in Saturday’s 16.5km team race against the clock to open the 2012 Vuelta a España.
Basque sprinter Koldo Fernández crossed lines with a teammate as Garmin-Sharp sped through a roundabout with about 5km to go.
Martijn Maaskant and Raymond Kreder had just peeled off. Fernández hit the deck hard, landing on his left shoulder, hip and knee. He also took out Thomas Dekker and Michel Kreder.
With two off the back and three on the deck, the numbers didn’t add up. The team’s time would be taken at the fifth man across the line, leaving the other riders no choice but to stop and wait for Kreder to make sure everything remained in place and remount his bike
“The others had to wait for the fifth man,” Garmin-Sharp sport director Allan Peiper told VeloNews. “In a team time trial, it only takes a little mistake to turn it into a big mistake.”
Garmin had been on track for a solid time, coming close to BMC in the first split. BMC later went on to finish just 10 seconds off the winning time of Movistar.
Instead, the remaining riders had to regroup, start from zero and try to salvage the day. They stopped the clock at 1:27 slower than Movistar, tied with Caja Rural for last place.
It was a frustrating and unexpected start for Garmin, which typically shines in the team time trial discipline.
Andrew Talansky, the second-year pro who is starting as the team leader for Garmin in his second Vuelta start, was the first back to the Garmin bus after the stage.
Peiper and Garmin sport director Bingen Fernández later consoled him as he cooled down on the rollers.
“I don’t know what happened. I was on the front. Me and Johan (van Summeren) heard it, we looked back and guys were on the ground,” Talansky told VeloNews. “Shit happens. It’s a bike race. It’s nobody’s fault.”
The start was not what Garmin and Talansky were hoping for.
Movistar proved superior to everyone, but Garmin likely would have been right there with the top teams.
Instead of being within 10-15 seconds within range of the likes of Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) and Chris Froome (Sky), Talansky is now nearly a minute and a half back after barely 10 miles of racing.
“We lost a massive amount of time. We had to wait for a long time. That’s what happens when guys go down,” Talansky continued. “It just sucks to lose time in something in that I am pretty confident that we would have been in the top-five teams at the end of the day.”
Talansky starts the Vuelta with GC ambitions. Hot off victory at the Tour de l’Ain, Garmin is bringing a mix of veterans and grand tour rookies to ride for Talansky.
The lost time will handicap his podium ambitions, but how he reacts and moves forward in the coming days will be just as important as trying to recover lost ground.
He was already trying to look at the big picture just moments after the crash.
“Like today, shit happens. You don’t know what can happen. You have to take it day by day. That’s how Ryder won the Giro, so that’s my mentality here,” he said. “Every day is a new day. You have to get through everything. I am looking forward to 10 days from now to the first time trial. I feel good.”
Talansky will have his first major tests coming soon. Following Sunday’s transition stage into La Rioja, Monday and Tuesday both end with the first two of 10 summit finales in this mountainous Vuelta.