Heading towards the Tour de France with three strong riders likely to share top billing, Cannondale-Garmin’s CEO Jonathan Vaughters has promised an aggressive approach, with the American team looking to shake up the more controlled tactics favoured by the big GC teams.
Cannondale-Garmin has employed such a strategy in the past, most notably on stage nine in 2013 when the relentless attacking decimated the Sky team, exposing Chris Froome and setting Dan Martin up for the stage win. Ryder Hesjedal also won his 2012 Giro d’Italia with an aggressive approach towards the end of the race, and showed a similar flair for going off the front this year.
“The final lineup isn’t decided yet but more than likely we are going to have Dan and Ryder and Andrew [Talansky] all on the start line,” Vaughters told CyclingTips.
“I think how we use them individually is going to be a little bit creative. We came to the decision that, okay, maybe one on one Talansky isn’t as good as Froome, one on one Dan isn’t as good as Contador. But by bringing three very, very high quality talents, if those guys choose to seamlessly and selflessly work amongst each other, we can make the race interesting.
“We can mix it up a little bit and thrown some crazy tactics in there and see what we can get to flush out the other end.”
Apart from Hesjedal’s 2012 Giro success and Martin’s Tour stage 2013 win, another example of how opportunistic tactics can spice up racing and lead to victory was seen on the final stage of last year’s Critérium du Dauphiné. Talansky went clear in an early move and with race leader Alberto Contador isolated behind, was able to gain enough time to win the race overall.
The result was his biggest to date and he’ll hope to pull off a similarly audacious move at some point during this year’s Tour.
However, to do so he’ll need to step up a level on recent form. While he won the US national championship time trial in May, Vaughters accepts that he is not yet back to the condition he showed in the past. He believes this is due to the after effects of his big crash in last year’s Tour de France.
That fall saw him struggle to finish stage 11 due to back injuries, and led to his withdrawal from the race prior to the next stage.
“It has certainly taken him a while to regain his spark. We saw he was very promising at the US nationals, then the Dauphine started off promising but by the end of the race he was struggling a little bit,” said Vaughters.
“But I think he is going to be good in the Tour de France. How good I don’t know, but I think he is going to be at the highest level he has been all year. He is on the right trajectory.”
Asked if he felt there was a physical throwback to his injuries of last July, he said there was a considerable amount of work to be done as a result of his crash.
“He definitely had to do a lot of physical therapy over the winter for a lot of the issues that the crash caused,” he said. “He had to rebuild very slowly. But there is nothing fundamentally lingering there. I think it was just a matter of getting realigned on the bike and getting his back straight. It just took him time.”
As for Martin, he too has been building up after hitting the deck. While he wasn’t as badly affected as Talansky from his falls this year, a run of impacts sapped his strength and depleted his morale.
However sixth and seventh on stages in the Dauphiné plus seventh overall show his form is on the up. Vaughters expects good things from the Tour, but said that the Irishman and the team will shy away from staking everything on a high general classification finish.
“Dan is such a fun, interesting talent. He could certainly finish in the top ten in the Tour de France, he could even finish in the top five of the Tour de France,” he said.
“But I think the way Dan is, that will be a by-product of him looking for stage wins in the mountains and even in the Mur de Huy early on in the race.
“Dan is taking it one day at a time. It’s a case of, ‘I am trying to win today, and oh, look, I am fifth overall as a result of trying to win today.’
He believes the methodical, calculated approaches of some of the GC contenders is simply not suited to Martin.
“Going into the Tour with the goal of playing a defensive tactic every day… That is just not his mentality, so we are not going to fight against that.
“We are going to let him be Dan, and be the best Dan he can be.”