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. 

Meet Mark Johnson and Jonathan Vaughters at Maria’s Bookshop in Durango before the USA Pro Cycling Challenge

Mark Johnson and Jonathan Vaughters will be at Maria’s Bookshop in Durango, Colorado before the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

Johnson and team founder Vaughters will speak and sign copies at 11 a.m. Sunday at Maria’s Bookshop, 960 Main Ave. For more information, call 970-247-1438 or visit www.mariasbookshop.com.

“It is a mark of a well-done book when a reader opens the pages and, despite a lack of previous interest and knowledge, is drawn into the fascinating world of pro cycling. Mark Johnson pulled this feat off through intimate, detailed photography and up-close and personal portrayals of the members of Team Garmin-Cervélo.” — Durango Herald

Argyle Armada Durango Herald

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

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.

Argyle Armada book coverOrder your copy of Argyle Armada today and get an all-access pass to the world of professional cycling. Available from your local bookstore or bike shop or from these retailers:

America’s most-read newspaper and Garmin’s oddball team

“They began as the oddballs.

They oozed a different vibe. Talented but quirky. Free-thinking characters. If the sport of professional bike racing were high school, they were the lovable misfits. They rocked a peculiar look: argyle on spandex. Their boss was a stylish oenophile with sideburns like a bass player’s.

But this outre cycling team, which grew into a global squad now called Garmin-Barracuda, had a mainstream mission. They wanted to detoxify a polluted sport. From the start, they promoted an antidoping message. They tested internally. They pledged full transparency.

And they meant it. In team history, they’ve never had a rider test positive for doping.

Now the misfits are running the cafeteria. Garmin-Barracuda is still idiosyncratic, still in argyle, but they’ve evolved into one of the best cycling teams on the planet.”

Read “Argyle Misfits Conquer Cycling” at the Wall Street Journal website.

Argyle Armada Wall Street Journal

Argyle Armada book coverOrder your copy of Argyle Armada today and get an all-access pass to the world of professional cycling. Available from your local bookstore or bike shop or from these retailers:

Ryder Hesjedal and the Giant Giro

Thursday’s Denver Post includes an article from John Henderson about what winning the Giro would mean to the Argyle Armada. Henderson says that Team Garmin, in its few years of existence, has had a few incredible months. July, 2011 with Thor winning stages of the Tour and wearing yellow. April, 2011 with Johan Vansummeren’s improbable win at Paris-Roubaix.

But May could shape up as the team’s best month ever. Garmin’s Dave Zabriskie won the Tour of California time trial and the team put him and Tom Danielson on the podium.

Ramunas Navardauskas with the man behind their TTT wins at the Giro and Tour de France, sports science director and time trial guru Robby Ketchell.

Then the team won the Giro d’Italia’s team time trial, putting Ramunas Navardauskas in the race lead  for two days. And this week, Ryder Hesjedal moved into a very strong position to win the Giro overall. Sitting in second just 30 seconds back, Hesjedal is causing a bit of panic among the Giro favorites. Sunday’s final stage is a time trial, a discipline that suits Hesjedal much better than the race’s current #1 and 2 riders.

Hesjedal winning the Giro d’Italia would be by far the biggest trophy in the team’s trophy case. “If we were able to win a Grand Tour, that would be incredible,” said team director Jonathan Vaughters in Henderson’s article. “That’s the real underdog story. We’ve built a program slowly but steadily. We’re one of the top four teams in the world, but as far as budgets go, we’re not even one of the top 10. For us to pull off a Grand Tour victory with the resources that we have would be unprecedented.”

Ryder Hesjedal Mark Johnson Argyle Armada

Hesjedal’s time trial might unlock a Giro d’Italia victory

Mark Johnson’s new book Argyle Armada tells this underdog story. Embedded with the team for its entire incredible 2011 season, Johnson’s words and photographs reveal the insides of a pro cycling team, from sponsorship negotiation to race wins to crushing defeats.

Chapter 8, on the Canadian Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and Montréal, are particularly revealing about the things and people who motivate Hesjedal, including thoughts of the young Canadians who see his photos in magazines, as well as Hesjedal’s wife, Ashley. Voted Canada’s cyclist of the decade, Hesjedal is the descendent of a great grandfather who emigrated from Norway to Canada in 1886. On the road today Ryder shows many traits of the quietly diligent ancestors. Jonathan Vaughters also provides his thoughts on what it will take for Hesjedal to win a big race–read the chapter to find out if JV was right and how Hesjedal met his wife!

Take a look at Ryder Hesjedal in this photo gallery drawn from the book Argyle Armada.

Argyle Armada book coverOrder your copy of Argyle Armada today and get an all-access pass to the world of professional cycling. Available from your local bookstore or bike shop or from these retailers: