After a year with the Continental squad Amore e Vita, 21-year old Andrew Talansky is returning to basics for 2010, joining the California Giant/Specialized team, one of five U23 riders in the rejuvenated Elite Amateur squad.
You might remember Talansky as the lone chaser behind Daniel Holloway at the Philadelphia International Championships for lap after lap.
“I really enjoyed being off the front in Philly even though I was chasing Holloway for most of the race, that was a very unique experience, one that I hope I can repeat in the future.” said Talansky who was told before the race by his team that “if something goes in the beginning, you need to do something for us,” which he did. “That was a unique experience because it was such a big stage, it’s the biggest one day race in the United States but I was more proud of that for doing something for the team, getting out there.”
In 2009, Talansky also won the Best Young Rider at Tour de Nez and finished ninth overall at the U23 National Time Trial Championships.
Racing with the US-registered but Italy-based team, he gained valuable experience racing in Europe, an “eye-opener” as he called it.
“Everybody says oh I want to go race in Europe but it made me take a step back and okay that is my ultimate goal, I do want to race more in Europe, I like the racing there, that’s where a lot of the history of cycling is but there’s more than one way to go about getting yourself over there and now I’ve now learned that it’s not just a matter of getting to race in Europe it’s a matter of making sure that you’re putting yourself in an environment where you can be successful racing in Europe.” said Talansky who is very thankful to Amore e Vita for giving him the opportunity. “Every experience I got during the 2009 season I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
Back to basics. While some may see the move to an amateur squad as a step back, for Talansky it’s a progression that will bring him closer to his long-term goal of returning to racing in Europe.
“I really wanted to find a place that was the best environment, that had a good mix of people that I get along with, good management and most importantly a good race schedule. And I’m pretty sure I found that with CalGiant.”
A major goal for the year is “to do everything right this year, to train right, to race smart. I know that if I do that, the winning will just come as a by-product, the wins will come but just to really focus on the process this year.”
An important factor is his decision to race for an amateur team is that he is hoping to race with the US U23 National Team in Europe, in his final year as an under-23 rider.
“Guys like Brent Bookwalter, people like that told me that it’s a really good opportunity if you have a chance to go over the the U23 team, it’s a great experience, you get to do a lot of racing, you’re lining up against guys that are at least in your age range, that’s a good experience.”
A goal that is easier to achieve while riding for an amateur team. “From my understanding at least it would be easier for me to do the races that the U23 National Team participates in when you don’t have a professional license.”
But Talansky understands that it is “a gamble depending on myself to race well enough to get noticed by the U23 National team to get that opportunity to spend some time in Europe.”
First time. He spent the first three months of 2009 training and racing mostly around team home base of Lucca, Italy.
“I would have to say that it was a positive experience in the sense that never having raced before I wasn’t sure what to expect, how the racing was going to go. Everybody tells you it’s going to he harder, it’s going to be longer, everybody is going to be better and you know that but until you get there and experience it. Hearing it and being in it are two completely different things.”
Once he got over the “this is big, can I be here?” question period, Talansky came to the realization that he just needed to do his job.
“You realize that there are certain guys who are way stronger and faster but at the end of the day everybody is there, everybody is doing their job and everybody is there to race their bikes and you are no different than the guy from Saxo Bank. He might be a little stronger but you’re still there doing your job for your team and once I go into that sort of mentality, the racing got a lot better for me. Just in the sense, I felt that it was okay if you have to push yourself to the front for your teammates then that’s what you do regardless of whom you are riding next to.”
While the racing was hard and tough, he learned and noticed an improvement in his own riding.
“I think that there is a lot of truth in what the guys say, in order to get better at racing in Europe you just have to race in Europe that’s the only way to really do it. I just see that it’s a matter of getting stronger and progressing every year and really being smart.”
Talansky returned to North America to race with his team at Philly, Nature Valley and a few other races but mostly he was racing solo.
“I learned that there are very good reasons that cycling is a team sport.” he chuckled. “It is a completely different thing. Cycling is truly a team sport, just the camaraderie of it, the role you play in the squad. You really, really appreciate everything that goes into bringing a team to the races and how well taken care of by a team while at the races when you do have to travel, make the arrangements yourself, everything from getting seats in the cars, to having somebody in the feedzone.”
There was also the mental pressure of racing alone. “When you’re by yourself, it’s just the mental aspect of it when you’re racing against everybody else, the majority of them do have soigneurs there, they do have their whole team there. It’s very different racing on your own, you have to look for opportunities, you don’t have that set role, you’re just trying to cherry pick opportunities to get yourself out there and get a little publicity for yourself and the team and you’re doing what you can but it’s hard to do everything by yourself, it’s hard to cover breaks and go for an overall placing and go for a stage result, it’s difficult in that respect.”
Lots of learning to do. Growing up in Miami his passion was running, both track and cross-country but a stress fracture forced Talansky to find another physical outlet while in high school.
“I like riding my bike and after the first race I went to, I was just hooked on it, it was just completely different than running or swimming. It was very unique in the sense that it wasn’t just about how strong you were, there were the tactics involved, it was just completely unique and I instantly pretty much fell in love with that.”
Talansky, who started racing in 2007, is still discovering what type of rider he is and will turn out to be. He has seen improvement in both his climbing and time trialing since he started but for now, he’s trying to shape himself into an allrounder. “Somebody who can make it up in the front group in the climbs and be there to help out a GC guy, somebody who can make a break and make them stick to the end.”
One skill that he feels has improved a lot is his ability to get into the right break. “It’s one of those things that it took me awhile to really understand, there were times when even last year, you would attack, attack and attack and then you sit up a second and the right break goes, and you end up wondering ‘how did I miss that’.”
For Talansky, getting into the right break is a matter of feeling the flow and understanding at what point the break is going to go and the right combination of riders.
“The moment when you’re hoping ‘I really hope nobody goes right now’, that’s when the break that sticks is going to go. When everybody is on the edge, when everybody is hurting, you just have to find that little bit extra, hurt for a few minutes more, that’s what I found when I made it into the right moves, that’s usually what happens.”
Long-term. In three to five years, Talansky would like to be racing a primarily European schedule in combination with the big American races such as Tour of Missouri, Tour of California and Philly.
“That goes back to what I said the only to get better in Europe is to race in Europe, I really would like to be on a team that allows me to do that, whether it’s a team like BMC in the US or whether it’s a Pro Continental team in Italy, France, Germany wherever that’s to be determined but that is my goal to ultimately be racing the majority of my season in Europe.”
This year, part of his schedule should include the big national stage races such as Redlands Bicycle Classic, tour of the Gila, Mt Hood, Cascades, Utah and the U23 National Championships.
“One thing that I’m really looking forwards to is racing with the guys at CalGiant. I know a few of them and I raced with all of the them, they’re a very good group of guys, everybody is motivated to race and it doesn’t seem that there’s a lot of big egos on the team, they want to help each other out, they want to race as a team rather than race as individuals in the same kit.”
Andrew Talansky – remember the name.
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