Before the start of this week’s USA Pro Challenge, Garmin-Sharp’s Andrew Talansky identified a single goal for the Colorado stage race: winning the Vail time trial.
“I love time trials, so [Vail] is a big target for me,” Talansky told VeloNews before stage 1 in Aspen. “Here’s a chance for me to do something I don’t usually get a chance to do in Europe: win a stage.”
On Friday Talansky came within a hair of accomplishing his goal, finishing second to race leader Tejay van Garderen (BMC) by only four seconds.
It’s been a big year for the Miami native.
In March, Talansky took a stage, the best young rider’s jersey and second overall at Paris-Nice.
In July, he placed 10th — and second in the best young riders’ competition — in his first appearance at the Tour de France.
For the 24-year-old the Tour was everything he hoped for, and more.
“Looking back it surpassed all expectations I had for the race. Everyone tells you it’s the biggest race in the world, the best race in the world. That’s putting it up on a pretty high pedestal,” Talansky said.
“But it’s an event where you go and do it and it actually is the greatest bike race in the world. There’s nothing better than the Tour de France.”
“You don’t have a lot of time during the race to look at it, but you have these few moments where you think, ‘This is it.’ If you dream of being a pro cyclist, you dream of the Tour de France. I got to be in it. It was definitely the highlight of my cycling career so far.”
After cracking in the Pyrenees, Talansky soldiered on, eventually regaining lost time and confirming a lesson learned about dealing with adversity.
“You know, at the  Vuelta I was a little sick but I worked through it and was just fine by the end. You know, that taught me, ‘Okay, don’t give up on things. Even if they aren’t going just right,'” he said.
“So I had this crack in the Pyrenees, but then things got better. It just helped me reaffirm what I already know … that something good will come of all the suffering and hard work.”
“You just have to trust in that process. It may not come right when you want it to, but it’s going to come. From the final time trial to the final mountain stage I felt the best I did the whole race. When other guys are kind of crumbling and coming apart I tend to excel for whatever reason.”
That was definitely the case in Vail, as Talansky shone brightly over a difficult 16.1km, uphill time trial. Garmin-Sharp teammate Tom Danielson placed third at 1:02, making for an all-American top three.
“I’m really excited to [race in the U.S.]. And the fans are incredible here,” said Talansky, who cites experience racing at altitude as a distinct advantage for American riders.
“I’ve always enjoyed racing at altitude. As an amateur in the U.S. you do the Tour of the Gila. I did Utah, when it used to be open to amateur teams. I haven’t raced here at altitude since the Gila in 2010 but I’ve always liked it. There’s something cool about it and it throws one more piece of adversity into it.”
“I think Americans are a little more used to dealing with [that adversity] because we come up doing full races at altitude. Europeans train at altitude, but they’ve mostly never done one-week stage races above 7,000 feet.”
As for the remainder of 2013, Talansky hopes his late season form bodes well for a number of upcoming goals.
“I do the two Canadian one-days, Quebec and Montreal. And then I’ll be with Garmin at worlds for the team time trial and am expecting to be selected for the individual time trial at worlds, as well. I’ll do the road race for sure.”
Afterward it’s on to 2014 and a whole new set of challenges.
“Every year my goal is just to keep gradually chipping away,” he said. “I don’t necessarily expect just to be on the podium at the Tour next year, but I do expect to be able to win a race like Paris-Nice next year. I think I’ve shown I’m capable of that.”