Saxo, Katusha, Sky, and Movistar are bringing legit GT-winning squads to La Vuelta, and I expect they will populate the top spots on the GC. However, I hope we see progress in the development of Garmin-Sharp's 23 year-old Andrew Talansky who rode his first Grand Tour last year at La Vuelta. He struggled last year but he did finish and says he learned a lot about recovering during a 3-week race. The kind of lessons that must be experienced first-hand.
In April of this year Talansky finished 2nd overall only 12 seconds behind Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de Romandie. He finished the final stage 16.5 km time trial less than a second behind Wiggins (to be fair, I think Wiggins dropped a chain and had to stop for a brief fix). Vaughters had predicted Talansky would challenge Wiggins before the race.
Huge ride by @andrewtalansky today. I am super happy for him. He's not the most hyped young rider out there, but he's the best.— Jonathan Vaughters (@Vaughters) April 29, 2012
2 weeks later Talansky had high hopes for the Tour of California (his US training base is in Northern California) and was sitting less than a minute off the GC overall lead after 6 stages, going into the decisive Mt Baldy stage. Talansky fell off the pace of the leaders early in the stage and later described the day on twitter:
This past weekend Talansky secured a stage and the overall victory (the biggest of his career) at the Tour de l'Ain, a mountainous French race, the 5 previous winners of which include Moncoutie, Zubeldia, Taaramae, Gerdemann, and Gadret.
I almost forgot to congratulate @andrewtalansky today. Great to see him coming onto form right as his objectives are about to begin.— Jonathan Vaughters (@Vaughters) August 10, 2012
So with 10 MTFs and not a lot of TT kms, what is fair to expect of him this time around?
EDIT: Two relevant articles have been published since this post yesterday.
He was placed high as well at the Amgen Tour of California until the closing weekend, but suffered badly on the Mount Baldy stage, falling from contention. It was only recently revealed what happened to the 23-year-old all-rounder. Talansky suffered a very strong asthmatic reaction to the pollution in the Los Angeles area, Vaughters said. "And he didn’t even know. All of the sudden, he just said: ‘I literally have to stop.’" The team sent Talansky for tests and learned that his bronchial tubes were very constricted, and the swelling lasted for weeks after. "He didn’t know. We didn’t know," Vaughters said. "He’d never been racing a bike in the L.A. Basin before," he said.
...and he spoke of his friend and training partner Levi Leipheimer. "He turned my career around," Talansky said. "Being around Levi really showed me what was necessary to compete at this level."
"I rode the Tour of Spain last year. I came into it not nearly as good as I am this year. Last year I was covering early breaks from the start; this year it’s going to be more about conserving energy for three weeks." Talanksy said that he’s eyeing a top-10 finish. But mostly the Vuelta will be about building on what Garmin has done so far.