Right about now, we could imagine that Andrew Talansky is both thrilled and miffed. With just one mountain stage to go before Madrid and the end of the Vuelta a España, it’s mission accomplished.
After a strong ride in the stage 19 time trial where he finished 7th, he now sits happily in 5th overall. He’s set to improve on his 7th place in the 2013 edition. That was the top goal of the season and bang, job done.
Still, that third place on the podium in a grand tour was right there — except for the two unexpected guests that showed up in Spain after riding the Tour de France. Take Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana out of the equation and Talansky would be in third. In fact, if Alberto Contador had abandoned after his significant injures sustained in the first week, Talansky could be as high as second.
They’d be popping champagne or more likely cava at the Cannondale-Drapac bus. People would be shouting Talansky’s BACK, the media machine would wonder about his changes in the 2017 Tour, he’d be getting maximum twitter love.
Now Talansky being a more rational and focused person than yours truly, he’s probably happy he got to show his talents against superstars like Froome and Quintana rather than take third in a diluted field of challengers. We would have wished those two had skipped the Vuelta so we could score that podium spot. We’re lazy and like shortcuts and he’s not that kinda guy.
The Vuelta ain’t done yet and there’s no guarantee Talansky will hold that 5th place. Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) is a mere 20 seconds behind and Saturday’s crazy mountain day could well be unfortunate for somebody riding high on GC.
There are four classified climbs, then the ‘categoria especial’ Alto de Aitana. That’s 22km at 6 per cent (painful) and 9 per cent in the final 5km (super painful). Talansky will hope he didn’t go too deep in the time trial and that he can measure his efforts carefully.
Fifth place in the Vuelta a España is a major accomplishment. Still, it’s tempting to dream about what might have been.