RIOM, France (VN) — Andrew Talansky has waited and worked for this moment for the better part of the past 10 years.
Since his breakout rookie season in 2011, he’s been hyped as a rider for the future. This week’s Paris-Nice, however, marks a shift in gear and perspective.
The future is now for Talansky and he is thinking of holding nothing back in the coming decisive days.
If there are any nerves, the “Pit Bull” isn’t giving anything away.
“It’s looking good,” Talansky told VeloNews while hitting the bike trainer after stage 2. “I am really excited to see what I can do.”
After surviving unscathed the crash-filled opening three days of Paris-Nice, the 24-year-old Garmin-Sharp rider has arrived at the critical junction of not only this week’s demanding “Race to the Sun,” but also the next step in his evolution as a bike racer.
But before he can battle up Montagne de Lure and the decisive final climbing time trial up Col d’Eze towering above the Cote d’Azur, Talansky has to get there.
And to “get there,” he’s been relying on his Garmin teammates who are completely dedicated to pushing their third-year pro as far up the GC standings as possible this week.
“These flat stages are stressful, but I’ve had the whole team keeping me upfront and out of trouble. It’s makes my life easy,” Talansky said. “There have been a lot of crashes both days and I haven’t seen one. We’ve been at the front in every moment that’s mattered.”
Talansky enters his third pro season with renewed confidence and heightened expectations.
Last year, Talansky broke into the victory column with the overall at the Tour de l’Ain before riding to seventh overall in the hard-fought Vuelta a España.
Coming to Paris-Nice, he’s racing to win.
His teammates have kept him out of trouble so far. Veterans David Millar, Johan Van Summeren, and Andreas Klier, riders who were racing when Talansky was still in junior high school, have all worked hard to keep their young steed at the front of the pack and out of trouble.
“Andreas Klier is incredible. I follow him around all day. He is the master,” Talansky said with a laugh. “He knows where you need to be when. You don’t have to think about it. You just follow him and he puts you where you need to be.”
Despite finish-line bonuses in play (unlike the Tour de France), Paris-Nice usually comes down to seconds.
Talansky said he’s not worried about giving up seconds to some of his GC rivals in Sunday’s technically challenging, short 2.9-kilometer prologue course on Sunday.
He stopped the clock at 12 seconds off the winning pace in 76th while others whom he will have to beat, especially last year’s runner-up Lieuwe Vestra (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) were just one and three seconds off the pace, respectively.
“That was exactly what I expected. It was a 2.9km prologue with nine corners,” he said. “The power from it was great. I just kept it cautious through the corners. I threw away a podium at Romandie two years ago by crashing in the prologue. I would rather lose five seconds, or a second a corner, and get to actually race for the podium, than deck it there and lose 30-40 seconds.”
Talansky is chomping at the bit to throw down. He pulled the plug on his solid 2012 campaign at the Giro di Lombardia. His 2013 debut at the Tour Méditerranéen last month was cut short when thieves stole all of Garmin’s team bikes in an overnight heist.
While some of his top rivals, such as Tejay van Garderen (BMC) or Robert Gesink (Blanco) already had a week or more of racing in their legs before coming into Paris-Nice, Talansky had a total of two days. And one of those was a 24.3km time trial.
“I can feel it in the first couple of days that I don’t have a ton of race rhythm,” he said. “That will hurt me more on days like today than when you have an uphill finish.”
When he returned to his European home-base in Girona, Spain following the team’s early departure from Tour Med, Talansky trained hard and made tests on some of the local climbs in Catalunya.
Looming this week are two of southern France’s most interesting climbs. While Mont Ventoux is waiting for Talansky’s likely Tour de France debut this summer, Paris-Nice climbs what many call its “little brother” up Montagne de Lure on Friday. Then it’s a climbing time trial up Col d’Eze on Sunday overlooking the Cote d’Azur.
“I am very motivated for Col d’Eze,” Talansky said. “It’s a TT where aerodynamics will play a bigger role than what a lot of people think. You saw that last year with (Bradley) Wiggins winning, he didn’t come out of the bars. I am going to have that in my mind.”
When asked about his bike setup, he said, “We’ll have something special for that day.”