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Talansky Is Ready To Step It Up A Notch

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His nickname is Pitbull. He surfs. And Miami, Florida, native Andrew Talansky carries the weight of a future Grand Tour winner on his shoulders.

After beating Alberto Contador in the final stage of the Dauphine to take the overall victory in 2014, Andrew moved up a few notches to a legitimate GT contender. For now, he’s focused on the spring races, like this week’s Paris-Nice.

peloton recently caught up with him to talk bikes and bike racing and more.

Tell us about your first bike?
Oh man. The first bike I remember having and really riding was this mountain bike I rode in Miami. I was doing laps around with tennis shoes and a T-shirt.

Did you play other sports growing up?
I was really into surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding. I was never really into organized sports until high school where I swam and ran cross-country, and then I got into cycling. I was never really into the team sports, but cycling ends up being quite a team sport!

Do you remember your first race?
The first bike race I won was the first one I ever did. It got me hooked. It was a weekend race and I didn’t know anything about cycling. It was in South Florida. I just attacked, and that feeling of getting away was great. I went as hard as I could from the start and I was hooked from that point on.

At what point did you think you could race professional?
Honestly, not for a while. I was focused on cycling in high school and started my junior year. I went to a good high school and had good options for college, but when we went to junior nationals I started thinking about it. The result itself wasn’t anything amazing, but the guys I finished with were Ben King, Tejay [van Garderen], Alex Howes … and they were impressive.

I knew who they all were but they didn’t know who I was! That showed me that after being on the bike for only six months I can be here riding with these guys, then maybe this was something worth pursuing.

Favorite training loop?
My favorite ride is where I live now in Napa Valley, California. There’s a climb, Spring Mountain, with a 12-percent average. It drops down into Santa Rosa, then there’s three or four more climbs along the way to get back to Napa. In the winter, it’s my favorite as it’s a quiet time of year.

Your greatest moment on a bike so far?
That was this year winning the Dauphiné. That was one of the most special moments of my life, honestly.

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2015?
I have similar goals as I’ve had in years past, but stepping it up a notch. Winning the Dauphiné showed me you don’t necessarily have to be the absolute best in the world to win, you just have to be prepared at every opportunity. At Dauphiné, I was fit, I was prepared and an opportunity arose, and we took it. I think at this point in my career we have to look for those opportunities.

For me, Paris-Nice is a race I’ve been second at and it’s a special race to me, so that’s a big goal early on. And then I want to perform consistently well throughout the year, but really it’s the Tour. I showed up this year in the best shape of my life, the team was incredible, and how I had to leave this year was a big disappointment for me and for the team. I want to go back there and put the good form to use and show everyone what we can do.

What’s the atmosphere like on Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling?
I don’t have a lot else to compare it to! But, I can tell you, the atmosphere of the team is the reason I’ve stayed here. I signed on for two more years before the Tour de France, so when that finishes I will have been with this team for six years. It’s the team I first turned professional with. The atmosphere on this team has always been one of enjoyment.

I think that is what allows us to do our job so well all year long from January all the way to Beijing [in October]. When you actually enjoy being with the guys off the bike, it makes it a lot easier to do the job on the bike, and I love that about being here.

There seems to be little drama on this team even with a few leaders?
We do have several leaders. The tactic used to be more about sending three or four guys to a race and seeing who can do well. Now, going into the race, we know the focus is on one of us. We all go in knowing we have a Plan A and stick with that. The egos on this team are not as big as some others. It’s refreshing. You saw Ryder [Hesjedal] at the Dauphiné? I wouldn’t have won if he hadn’t been there and done what he did.

Are you systematic about racing and training, or do you ride from the heart?
I’d say it’s two ways. As far as training goes, I’m very systematic and planned. I like the numbers and knowing where I am and what numbers I need to hit. When you get into a race, to be honest, I don’t look at the numbers during a race. If you have to be at the front, you have to be at the front, and you can either do it or you can’t.

Do you still get nervous lining up to race?
At big races, yeah. The Tour de France, for sure.

Who do you call first after a race?
My wife. She’s the first one who gets to hear about the whole day.

Can you sum up this team in one word?
Camaraderie or selflessness.

Where does your nickname Pitbull come from?
That’s 100 percent from Jonathan Vaughters. I really don’t know when he came up with it, but it was before the Vuelta in 2012. The name caught on with the Spanish fans and then it faded away for a while and I thought it was gone, and then it came back! It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Once I set my sights on a goal, I really don’t give up until I get it, so I think that’s where it comes from. I’m a little tenacious, maybe.

Your development as a rider seems to be pretty textbook?
Yeah. Absolutely. When I started four years ago — it can sound cocky, but it is really what I wanted to do in the sport. The results this team is getting, and that I’m getting, it is a logical progression. Jonathan Vaughters invested in me and this team is helping me reach my goals. This has always been what you could call “the plan” — to get to this level and keep progressing.

What do you love to do when your aren’t riding or racing?
I love to surf. We usually go to Maui every year. That’s probably my favorite thing—that and being in Tahoe, being out on the lake.

Watch the video interview with Talansky below:

This interview was originally featured in the Cannondale Gazette, which can be seen in the Peloton Magazine App.