After Liege-like test, American dreams alive and well at TDF

Tejay van Garderen and Andrew Talansky find themselves sitting pretty at the Tour after a brutal second stage

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SHEFFIELD, England (VN) — The day delivered the promised punches from those who would wear yellow, and the two main Americans were left standing and undaunted.

The EKG profile of Sunday’s stage 2 did nothing to dash the dreams of the young Americans riding this Tour de France. If anything, it only bolstered the confidence of Andrew Talansky and Tejay van Garderen, as both men hovered near the front at the stage’s crescendo. Talansky and van Garderen sit at 21st and ninth, respectively, in a cluster of GC riders two seconds in arrears of stage winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).

“All systems go,” said BMC Racing’s van Garderen after the stage. “I feel good. I feel really good … I trained well and I’m happy with where I’m at. I think I showed it today, and I think I’ll show it all the way through Paris.”

Talansky’s Garmin-Sharp team wasn’t content to wait around on the nine-climb day, either, and played attack dog, mangling the peloton on the second stage.

“Just wanted to make the race as hard as possible, also keeping ourselves up front and out of trouble. And a lot of times the best way to do that is just take control of the race,” Talansky said. “And maybe we were missing one guy to keep the pace on, but Tom-Jelte Slagter rode it down to 15 guys two days into the Tour de France. That’s pretty impressive.”

The effort from Garmin was immense, and while it didn’t cut into the true GC men, it did perhaps indicate a sign of things to come for the scrappy American outfit. Talansky, for one, is wary about projecting much meaning from the second race day, before the Tour even hits France.

“I don’t think we’ve really seen anything yet. Everybody looks good, everybody’s similar, you know. Nobody could get away from any of the rest up the hill,” said Talansky. “So, it’s two days in. It was really hard.

“It’s no secret that one-days like today are not my specialty. Short punchy climbs all day. … You know my specialty is a lot of 20-, 30-, 40-minute climbs. That’s what I get into. So, you know, mission accomplished. Got through, front group, feeling good.”

The man nicknamed “The Pit Bull” enters this Tour a different rider, thanks to his Criterium du Dauphiné win building up to the sport’s biggest race.

“It’s huge. I mean, it just shows I belong up there, and our team belongs up there, and we’re riding exactly like that,” Talansky said.

Or, as his manager Jonathan Vaughters put it: “It really sort of seemed to turn on his self-confidence. You can see he’s more confident, less tense. More of a leader, little less barky. He’s kind of gone from a lot of bark and a lot of bite to maybe a lot less bark and a lot more bite. He and I have always had the same objectives: Get him the highest place possible.”

The stage was circled by many a GC contender as one to watch when the Tour route was announced, and it delivered thanks to its myriad sharp but short climbs — save one category 2 — and electric atmosphere.

Van Garderen, for one, felt the sting.

“It was attrition all day,” he said. “Ugh. Man. It was hard. I’m just happy to make it through with all my skin and on the same time.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.