FOCALQUIER, France (VN) — Youthful exuberance got the better of Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) in Friday’s mountaintop finale and it cost him the yellow jersey and likely a chance to win Paris-Nice.
Talansky attacked three times on the upper reaches of the Cat. 1 summit at Montagne de Lure when conventional wisdom said he should have ridden defensively.
When his third surge ran out of steam, Richie Porte (Sky) countered with 1.3km to go to win the stage and knock Talansky into second by 32 seconds. Talansky couldn’t hide his disappointment when he arrived at the Garmin team bus at the foot of the climb.
“I was feeling incredible on the climb and I got carried away with it too much,” Talansky told VeloNews. “The first two attacks were all right. The third one was one too many. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have gone. That was the difference. I wanted to get away with Richie, but when he went, he was too strong.”
The 24-year-old started Friday’s 176km fifth stage overflowing with confidence following his win Wednesday and was hoping to cement his grip on yellow before going into Sunday’s decisive, 9.6km climbing time trial at Col d’Eze.
Things were going to plan up the 13km Lure climb as Sky took control of the pace and Talansky settled in behind Porte and his new Spanish teammate, David López.
After early moves by Christophe Le Mevel (Cofidis) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) thinned the field, Talansky unexpectedly jumped with just over 3km to go. Talansky went again with about 2.3km to go, but Porte had López to help pace him back onto the wheel.
Denis Menchov (Katusha) jumped with about 2km to go, and would go on to finish second in the stage; Talansky attacked for a third time with 1.7km to go.
“I attacked three times. The first two were fine, the third was a mistake,” Talansky said. “You can say that now. If it had worked, it wouldn’t have been a mistake. A mistake is a gamble this doesn’t work. If it works, everyone says you’re genius.”
When his third surge was checked, things began to unravel for Talansky.
Porte countered just as López reeled in the American yet again. The counter-attack caught Talansky out as he was forced to recover from his failed atempts. Porte was gone.
“Me and Richie were the two strongest guys there and I didn’t ride too intelligently. I got too wrapped up in the race,” Talansky said. “The other guys, all they could do was follow, and no one wanted to follow Richie. He got that gap, and there was a headwind, and no one wanted to pull. It’s just an unfortunate situation.”
Porte, a winner of the Volta ao Algarve (Tour of the Algarve) last year, churned toward Menchov and then soloed home for the win.
Porte was quick to thank López, who joined Sky this year from Movistar, but did not want to criticize Talansky.
“I am not going to question his tactics. He’s here to win the race,” Porte told VeloNews. “When he attacked, I still had a teammate riding on the front and things were under a control. I set him up well the other day. I think I led him out with 500 meters to go [on Wednesday], so it swings back around.”
Porte now takes a solid lead over Talansky of 32 seconds, yet he only had kind words for his American rival.
“He’s the under-rated young American coming out. He’s done more than some of these other guys who are getting massive media plugs,” Porte said. ” He’s shown he’s a massive talent. He and Tejay [van Garderen] are the future of American cycling.”
As strong as Talansky, nicknamed “Pitbull,” felt on the Lure, he struggled to understand how he had lost the leader’s jersey. As Garmin team boss Jonathan Vaughters posted on Twitter: “You can’t take the pit bull out of the pit bull.”
“Yeah, except that I was in the jersey and all I had to do was defend it,” Talansky said. “I had just gone and it was pretty windy, guys were sitting on my wheel. I hesitated for a second, because Richie and me are not the only two here racing to win. I think a lot of guys threw away their chance to win the race. I lost the jersey, but a lot of people lost more.”
When he arrived at the Garmin bus at the bottom of the narrow climb, Talansky’s teammates and sport directors patted him on the shoulder and tried to cheer him up.
“He wanted to do his climb. He felt really good on the climb, so maybe he wanted to take more time,” Garmin sport director Gert Van Bondt told VeloNews. “Maybe he didn’t need to do it, but he’s 24.
“For sure, he’s disappointed,” Van Bondt continued. “As he said, ‘maybe I should not have attacked.’ After the race, it’s always easy to talk. He’s made a fantastic race so far. He’s won a stage and two days in the jersey. I still think he can win the stage on Sunday.”
Barring disaster for Porte, Talansky almost certainly lost his chances for overall victory. But the “Pitbull” will not give up.
“He’d have to have a bad day in the time trial. I am confident I am going to have a good day,” Talansky said. “He’d have to have a bad day, but that’s possible.”
Just as the final kilometers of Friday’s stage revealed, anything’s possible in professional cycling.