FINHAUT-EMOSSON, Switzerland (VN) — American Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) is heading towards the podium of the Critérium du Dauphiné with only one stage remaining.
On the Col de la Gueulaz, 6,300 feet above the French/Swiss border Saturday, Talansky passed all of GC his rivals except for Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), moving from fourth to third overall.
“I’m definitely better than I expected,” Talansky said, after noting that he now sits 20 seconds up on Wilco Kelderman (Belkin), who is now fourth. “The result is better than I expected. I am where I thought I’d be, fitness-wise, but I didn’t think that would equal quite such a good result this week.”
At the start of the French stage race last week, Talansky placed fourth in the time trial in Lyon, and then climbed to fifth on the Col du Béal. He maintained that place until Saturday, when cracks began to show in the overall lead of Chris Froome (Sky).
Contador attacked Froome and the lead group with around 1.5 kilometres to race, rode away solo and into the race lead. Talansky, who like his rivals had been isolated by team Sky’s work, found help from Ryder Hesjedal, who dropped back from the breakaway.
Talansky left behind Kelderman and closed the stage in fifth, 18 seconds behind Contador and 1:51 behind stage winner Lieuwe Westra (Astana).
“The hardest moments were actually when Froome’s teammates, like David Lopez, Geraint Thomas, Mikel Nieve, and Richie Porte are riding, because they are putting us all on the limit,” Talansky said.
“When it’s Contador versus Froome, the one-on-one battles, then it’s simple, but it’s hard when Froome’s teammates are making you suffer.”
Talansky will have one more day to suffer, because the race finishes with a 5.9km climb to Courchevel tomorrow. However, given his fitness, Garmin’s “Pit Bull” believes he can fight off Kelderman to maintain third overall.
“I can hold it, I’m feeling good, the team is good. Contador and Froome are going to race each other to the end. I’ll do my thing,” Talansky explained. “I’m just pleased with how things are going, a lot will change between now and the Tour de France, but it’s nice to know that everything’s on track.”
Talansky is set to lead the Garmin squad in the Tour de France when the race kicks off July 5th in Yorkshire. Team manger Jonathan Vaughters has yet to name the team, but should take a mix of riders from the Dauphine and Tour de Suisse to support the 25-year-old.
“Today showed Contador and Froome are both on a very good track for the Tour win, it’s going to be an incredible battle this year,” Talansky said. “Vincenzo Nibali is building gradually and I think he’ll be on a higher level at the Tour. On paper, he’s in there with that third podium spot, but then after that, it’s wide open.”
Based on this week’s performance, Talansky should tackle the wide-open Tour de France with more confidence.