Vaughters’ California “surprise” — Talansky.

Surprise, surprise.

Flying under the radar.

If you’re a underdog with awesome form, that’s how you want to slide into the Tour of California. Just off the list of potential contenders, a media afterthought, mentioned but not really feared.

That rider is Garmin-Barracuda’s young talent Talansky. Fresh off an outstanding result — two, actually — at the Tour of Romandie — Andrew Talansky finished second in the overall and second in the final time trial to red hot Bradley Wiggins (Sky).

Still, he begins the Tour of California with no pressure, expectation or big media hoopla. That’s just the way they like things in Garminville and no team has ever played the underdog role to more positive effect than Jonathan Vaughters’ crew.

At the opening press conference in Santa Rosa I watched as last year’s winner Chris Horner (RadioShack Nissan-Trek) tried to find a rival. That’s how confident he is in his form and his team. The 40 year old bald guy said he was still worried about Levi Leipheimer – like somehow he didn’t believe little Levi was down to one leg and just happy to make the start in Santa Rosa.

Media attention then turned to the number two ranked rider in the world, Liquigas-Cannondale’s Vincenzo Nibali. This season the Italian had beaten Horner in the final time trial of the prestigious Tirreno Adriatico to win the overall and hey, somebody has to be a contender besides Tejay Van Garderen.

Horner looked around the room and said the overall winner would come from somebody seated here at the press conference. Now, Tejay may be looking more badass with his shaved head and facial stubble but we don’t think Horner is too scared. Then again, maybe we’re all missing the dark horse.

You take your interview shots when they arrive and when Jonathan Vaughters and I both came out of the mens room at the same time, I figured that was the small window for questions without a gaggle of other media folks.

I asked if Tom Danielson was the main guy for the overall. Vaughters paused a half second too long before saying “yeah, yeah.” Then he instantly got to the more intriguing possibility: “I think we might have somebody else who’s a little bit of a surprise, too,” said Vaughters. “Nobody’s talking about him so that’s good.”

That “him” guy is Andrew Talansky. Chris Horner is too smart a rider to let Talansky get too far up the road but you never know what can happen. There may be a few surprises at this year’s Tour of California. Talansky would be a good bet.

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