We’re just over the halfway point at the Helta Skelta Vuelta.
Nairo Quintana is in red, Chris Froome is surging and Alejandro Valverde is in podium position. Giro d’Italia runner-up Esteban Chavez is still in the hunt despite losing a little time today after his cheeky attack on the final climb. Things remain “complicated” and “difficult” for the “I don’t like the word impossible” Alberto Contador.
Scanning down the GC we find our intrepid American Pitbull Andrew Talansky in 11th place overall, 5:03 behind Quintana as he attempts to better his 7th overall in the 2012 Vuelta a España.
The optimistic talk and specific goal was top five and perhaps, if all stars align, a place on the podium. Although that was before the guest list went decidedly upscale with stars Froome, Quintana and Valverde deciding the Tour de France wasn’t tiring enough. The embarrassment of riches was the Vuelta’s gain and Talansky’s personal loss.
So is Talansky on track? He’s a grinder who is strongest in the final week of a grand tour. His modus operandi is consistency, steadiness, no big days, no bad days, ride an excellent 37k time trial on stage 17, then cruise past a few fading GC guys in the waning days.
Let’s review Talansky’s efforts of late as the race hit the next wave of mountains. Today’s stage 11, 52 seconds off Froome’s winning time, stage 10, 1:31 off Nairo Quintana’s winning time, stage 9, finished with his GC rivals, stage 8, 49 seconds behind the time of best GC finisher, Quintana.
That pretty much explains the 11th place and the five minutes and change deficit. Still, he’s nearly into the top ten with plenty of categorized misery ahead in a third week of what promises to be brutally exhausting — because that’s the way they like things in the Vuelta.
Who’s in the way besides the usual impediments? Will Leopold Konig’s legs fall off after so many days as Froome’s mountain man deluxe? Will Michele Scarponi of Astana gradually assume his natural position further down the GC standings? Will David De La Cruz, riding for Etixx-Quickstep, eventually fall apart? Will Sammy Sanchez of BMC, riding his home tour, show his old age and slow down on the road to Madrid?
That would put Talansky back were he was in 2012 — seventh place. That’s a lot of work, training, sacrifice and pain for a repeat performance. Seems to us that consistency isn’t going to get the job done this time around. Time for Talansky to attack or follow when Alberto makes his last dying attempt at greatness.