COL DU BÉAL, France (VN) — Andrew Talansky fought with professional cycling’s elite in a hot and sticky Critérium du Dauphiné stage Tuesday, and sits fourth overall after a brutal finishing climb.
“I’ve tried to work on coming into races, to be ready in the first few days. I showed that with the time trial yesterday and the uphill today,” Talansky said. “Still, I’ll be a lot better on Saturday’s stage when it’s repetitive climbing and the others begin to tire.”
Race leader Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) went head to head up the 13.6-kilometer climb, and Froome’s numerous accelerations initially dropped everyone but Contador. Four riders, including Talansky, ultimately clawed themselves back to the leading pair.
Once he caught back on, Talansky went to the front himself with 2.5 uphill kilometers to race. He explained that he wanted to keep a constant rhythm because he suffers when his rivals change the pace frequently. He maintained his spot with the group until 600 meters out, when Froome opened the throttle again to escape for the stage win just ahead of Contador.
“It wasn’t so much the effort, but the positioning. People are fighting tooth and nail and then they don’t have it when the accelerations come. That opened the gap,” Talansky said. “Instead of putting myself in the red, I just keep going. It took awhile, but I was with an IAM guy and we picked up [Vincenzo] Nibali along the way.”
The 25-year-old from Florida finished 12 seconds behind Froome in fifth place on the stage. Contador took second, Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) third and Jurgen Van den Broeck of Lotto-Belisol fourth. Nibali (Astana) finished 15 seconds behind Talansky in sixth.
After the line, Talansky slowly pedalled over the tar that the 95°F heat made hot and sticky to reach the anti-doping trailer. He left his sample, spoke with Froome and rode down to the bus where he met the team.
The American and directors traded smiles and hugs — the result pays back Talansky for his time spent training, including last month at Lake Tahoe, and builds on last season when he placed tenth the Tour.
“Last year at the Dauphiné, I started off with a stomach flu and then finished between Froome and [Richie] Porte on the final mountain stage. That lack of ideal prep, due to a few things, showed in the Tour,” Talansky said. “This year, my month of May has been a lot better. June has been good. Dauphiné is to continue that preparation for the Tour. The last week, the most important part, is still five to six weeks away. I’m still building for that.”
The Critérium du Dauphiné travels south and into the Alps in the coming days. Now fourth overall, 33 seconds down on Froome, Talansky hopes for something special on Saturday, when the race covers four climbs en route to the summit finish at Finhut-Emosson. However, he realistic for this race and the big one next month.
“Contador and Froome are on another level. It’s their race, we are along for the ride essentially,” Talansky said. “It’s going to make an exciting Tour with those two guys but you have to be realistic; those guys have shown time and time again that they are on a different level. Nibali could be there by the Tour. After those three, it’s wide open.”