Commentary: These were the 10 most important stories in US cycling in 2016

by Neal Rogers

December 22, 2016

5. Andrew Talansky, fifth overall, Vuelta a España

by Neal Rogers

Eyebrows were raised when the Cannondale-Drapac team announced that Andrew Talansky would be skipping the Tour de France, just weeks after finishing fifth overall at the Tour de Suisse. But Talansky, and team manager Jonathan Vaughters had a plan. Following a subpar spring confounded by a sinus infection and a family crisis, by April, Talansky was, in his own words, “On the verge of breaking.”

Rather than return to the Tour de France, where he’d finished 10th in 2013, crashed out the following year, and finished 11th in 2015, Vaughters and Talansky decided he should focus on GC the Vuelta a España, where he’d finished seventh overall in 2012.

The goal, Talansky said, was “just to race the general classification, to put together a solid three weeks against Grand Tour winners.”

With Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana all in attendance, it was unlikely Talansky would win. But strong performances at the summit finish on the Col d’Aubisque, on Stage 14, where he took time on Quintana and Froome, and on the Stage 19 time trial, where he finished seventh, vaulted Talansky into fifth overall, his best Grand Tour result to date, and the best American Grand Tour performance since Tejay van Garderen’s fifth place at the 2014 Tour de France.

Just as importantly, it was a major confidence boost for Talansky, and a result he rates higher than his win at the 2014 Critérium du Dauphiné.

“For me, this was my best performance, from a physiological perspective,” Talansky said. “I might not have been right up there on all the climbs, always right there on camera, but it was a big step forward.”

Looking forward, Talansky said he intends to return to the Tour de France, with hopes of putting together another consistent, incident-free Grand Tour.

“This was about taking a step back, and improving on the level I’ve shown in the past,” he said. “Given the experiences I’ve had at the Tour, I want to go back and perform. What does that mean? It means being consistent, putting in a solid three weeks, and getting to ride my race. I want that at the Tour de France. I’m 27 years old, I still have another three years or so I’m where I’m going to improve. So it’s still a matter of where the limit is, and pushing that ceiling. It’s not so much what I can change, but just more about continuing with my development — continuing to expand my limits.”