Tiger Talansky

Andrew Hood’s recent interview with Garmin-Sharp rider Andrew Talansky captures the fiery personality I also found during my year with Talansky and the Garmin team.

In Hood’s interview, Talansky is offended by riders who challenge his ability to ride in Europe without doping. Talansky, who finished seventh at this year’s Vuelta a España, calls out Andy Jacques-Maynes, a domestic U.S. rider who Tweeted his opinion that “everyone racing in Europe has been doped at some point.”

When I spent time with Talansky at the 2011 Vuelta (his first Grand Tour), he showed a similar flash of anger when I brought up the topic of Paul Kimmage, the author of Rough Ride and a long time anti-doping critic. Even though Kimmage is complimentary of Talansky’s team, the young Floridian told me he found the Irish journalist’s very presence among the pro peloton deeply offensive.

From chapter 7 of Argyle Armada:

    Talansky is visibly saddened when he talks about fans and journalists who don’t believe any riders are clean. Yet, upon hearing that doping denouncer Paul Kimmage finds Vaughter’s team a beacon of hope, a shadow crosses Talansky’s face again. “I think it’s great” that Garmin-Cervélo gives Kimmage hope, he says. Then he says, darkly: “I also think that somebody like him has no place in the sport of cycling and doesn’t deserve to write about it.”
    Talansky explains that there are other clean teams out there, and he feels it’s unjust of someone like Kimmage to only focus on Garmin-Cervélo while tarring the rest of the peloton. “I’m really sad for him,” he confides. “It is puzzling to me why these people are still around the sport….I get a little angry about that.”

A year has passed since I interviewed Andrew on that quiet September afternoon in Northern Spain, and the wall of silence surrounding pro cycling’s dope-ridden past has begun to crumble since then.

It’s good to see that this young rider, the vanguard of a different generation of pro cyclists, has not lost the moxie that makes him one of the most compelling men in the pro peloton today.

You can read more about Talansky in Argyle Armada. 

Mark Johnson’s VeloNews Op-Ed: Cycling Needs a Riders Union

In this op-ed for VeloNews.com, Argyle Armada author Mark Johnson offers reasons that the sport and business of cycling would benefit from a union of riders. Johnson’s thinking on this topic came in part from his interactions with Garmin-Sharp team director Jonathan Vaughters, who has long advocated for fundamental changes in the structure of the sport.

Johnson’s op-ed comes on the heels of Vaughters’ admission last week in this article for the New York Times that he doped during his pro cycling career. In the article, Vaughters says that his team has worked to eliminate the choice of doping for its riders.

Johnson’s op-ed addresses doping. How would a pro cyclists union affect doping in the sport?

Johnson’s article is a thought-provoking, independent look from the only journalist to have spent a season within the team that began cycling’s most recent anti-doping crusade. Click below to read more.

Argyle Armada Marvin Miller cyclists union VeloNews

Will Tyler Farrar Beat Cav? He’s Done It Before.

From Chapter 5 of Argyle Armada:

“The day after the time trial win, Navardauskas and Zabriskie keep five breakaway riders within reach for much of the flat 123-mile stage from the seaside village of Olonne-Sur-Mer to Redon. The field captures the breakaway 6 miles from the finish. On the run-in it looks like another Mark Cavendish win is in the offing. But then, with less than 1 kilometer to go, Millar keeps Hushovd protected through a right-hand turn, then the yellow jersey barrels past a stunned Cavendish with Dean and Farrar in tow. Dean takes over from Hushovd and drops off Farrar 250 meters from the finish in Redon.

Farrar wins the team’s second stage in two days. The manner in which Hushovd made it happen is unprecedented. This is the first time a rider wearing both the rainbow stripes of the road world champion and the yellow jersey has led out a teammate for a win in the last 500 meters of a Tour stage. At the finish, Farrar and his two lead-out men reenact the historic moment through a time-delayed doppelgänger; while Farrar coasts past the finish line in real-time, hands held aloft in the shape of a W, on a JumboTron behind them and on TVs around the planet, a time-delayed Farrar is still sprinting, hands on his bars, elbows out with escorts Dean and Hushovd peeling off to his right.

After the stage, Farrar says he won it for Weylandt. The sprinter from the state of Washington is the first American to win a Tour stage on July 4, his country’s Independence Day. As of today the 27-year-old is also the second American to have won stages at all three grand tours—Dave Zabriskie being the first.

At the finish, Millar scrambles through a frenzy of journalists to Farrar. With a Colombian radio reporter providing a live account in machine-gun Spanish to listeners back home, Millar plants a kiss on Farrar’s cheek. Vande Velde hugs Farrar and tells him it’s a great way to celebrate the Fourth. New Zealander Dean is usually emotionless after races, a countenance of blank concentration. Today, however, a smile shows through road grime that covers his face in the patterns of a Maori tattoo.

The marketing return on Farrar’s win rains down within hours. U.S. Senator John Kerry e-mails Vaughters his congratulations. Articles headlining Garmin-Cervélo pop up on media sites around the world. Forbes, CBS, ESPN, The Washington Post, The Guardian: the world’s press is smitten with the story of an American winning on July 4, an American who suffered tragedy months earlier with the loss of his dear friend. The next day’s L’Équipe headline reads, in English, “Farrar’s Day” with a fullpage photo of Farrar with his hands forming a W.”

Go inside the pro peloton with Argyle Armada, available from your local bookstore or bike shop or from these retailers:Argyle Armada book cover

Blood and Ice

Watching the carnage of the first week of the 2012 Tour de France, you can’t help but think how fortunate the team was at the 2011 Tour. While Ryder Hesjedal suffered a terrible crash during stage one, during last year’s first eight stages the team largely kept the rubber side down. They also carried the yellow jersey for seven glorious days.

This year, of course, has been the opposite, with crashes forcing lead-out-man Robbie Hunter to abandon along with GC contenders Hesjedal and Tom Danielson. Smack downs with the European pavement seriously compromised both health and GC potential for the rest of the squad as well. “We are down to six,” Vaughters said. “We have just got to soldier on.”

But crashing is bike racing, and last year that was especially apparent at September’s Tour of Spain. There, the team lost both Brazilian Murilo Fischer and Tyler Farrar to crashes during the first week. In a freak accident on a wide, flat road, Frenchman Christophe Le Mével also went down so hard he at first thought he broke his hip.

Showing the marks of a crash earlier in the day, and with a bag of ice down his bib shorts, Johan Vansummeren finishes the Vuelta a Espanã stage 15 on the Alto de L’Angliru. September 4, 2011.

This photo shows Johan Vansummeren during Vuelta stage 15 on the Angliru, a vicious climb in the Cantabrian Mountains of northern Spain. The blood on his fingers, arm, and leg are traces of an earlier run in with a sharp bit of Europe’s infamous road furniture–traffic-calming devices placed in roads to slow cars.

You will have to read Argyle Armada to get the gory details, but consider that in addition to getting stitches in two parts of his body after the stage, injuries forced the Belgian to ride the stage with a bag of ice down his shorts. The 6’5″, 167-pound Vansummeren also resisted the race and team doctors’ strong recommendation that he finish the stage in an ambulance, not on a bike.

During another Vuelta stage, Sep Vanmarcke got tangled up with another falling rider and flew over a guard rail on a steep mountain descent. After launching 40 meters into a ravine, the young Belgian hit a tree and crashed to a halt in underbrush just meters from a river. The caravan didn’t see the crash, and Vanmarcke had to drag himself up out of the woods before word filtered out to the team car to come back and assist him.

Traumatized, Vanmarcke got back on his bike and rode to the finish. “At that moment you just realize what you survived. I was totally mentally broken. I started crying for two hours. I couldn’t stop. I had no power. I was shocked.”

Jonathan Vaughters recently argued that, considering the grave risks inherent to pro cycling, the minimum rider salaries should be twice what they are today. That’s part of his larger vision for a reformed sport. Getting compensation more in line with the hazardous nature of the pro cycling hasn’t happened yet, but both the 2011 Vuelta and the first week of the 2012 Tour suggest their may be some merit to the Slipstream boss’s wish.

Go inside the pro peloton with Argyle Armada, available from your local bookstore or bike shop or from these retailers:Argyle Armada book cover

You’ve Won the Stage, Now What?

What happens after you’ve won a stage of the Tour de France? Here’s embedded writer-photographer Mark Johnson’s look at Thor Hushovd’s exit from the course after winning Stage 13 of the Tour.

From Chapter 5 of Argyle Armada

Long after all the team buses have left, Hushovd makes his way through a crowd of fans to a waiting team car. With the assistance of a Tour de France bouncer, he slips into the front seat, where he takes a moment to sign an autograph book for a boy in a polka dot climber’s jersey. A plastic container of food with “Thor” written on the lid waits in the backseat.

Team director Marie gets into the driver’s seat, and Marya Pongrace sits in the back, though she has a hard time shutting the door because as she gets in, a fan sticks his video camera through the door and won’t pull it out. When police finally pry the videographer off the vehicle, Marie starts the engine and the crowd parts.

Argyle Armada Inside the team car after Thor wins Stage 13

Get behind the scenes with Argyle Armada, your all-access pass to the sport, lifestyle, and business of professional cycling. Argyle Armada is available from your local bookstore or bike shop or from these retailers:Argyle Armada book cover

Q&A Vande Velde: ‘We raced the Giro with a massive chip on our shoulders’

Chapter 5 of Argyle Armada gives an inside look at the team’s remarkable successes at the 2011 Tour de France, including four stage wins, seven days in the yellow jersey, and the overall team prize.

In the chapter, at a private after-party in Paris, Christian Vande Velde describes the race, saying, “From pipe dreams in 2003 for Jonathan to 2007 for a couple of us taking some serous risks coming to this team in the first place. From being the little engine that could to standing the whole…team on the podium in Paris. It’s been huge.”

Ryder Hesjedal and Christian Vande Velde at the 2011 Tour de France

In this interview for VeloNews, Vande Velde expands on this sense that Slipstream has always been underestimated, if not dismissed, for their quirkiness and their stance on doping. He also explains how being the underdog motivated him and the team as they helped Ryder Hesjedal ride to victory at this year’s Tour of Italy.

Christian Vande Velde and Ryder Hesjedal often room together when on the road, including at the 2012 Giro d’Italia, which Hesjedal won.

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