Going into his third pro season, the 24-year-old Garmin-Sharp rider from Miami has raised the bar in his personal ambitions. No longer content simply to race at the elite level, he wants to win.
"I am going into every race this year with a different mindset," Talansky told VeloNews ahead of Wednesday's start at Tour Mediterraneen. "I won't be racing just to race. I want to race for results. If you're racing just to race, it's easy to be content with 10th. When you want to build toward winning, you have to go to the races with a different attitude."
Talansky already knows what it means to win in Europe.
Last August, he broke through with the overall at the Tour de l'Ain. The small French stage race is no Tour de France, but everyone knows that winning in Europe is hard no matter the race.
Talansky took some important lessons out of that victory. He realized that to win is just as much mental as it is having the physical ability to grind the pedals.
"Last year, winning l'Ain was big. The difference between winning a race and the other two guys on the podium is massive. And that difference is sometimes mental," he said. "This year, I want to focus on the mindset of winning. That doesn't mean I am going to win those races, but I do want to go to those races with the mindset that I am going there to win."
Talansky will have plenty of chances to test his new mantra this spring. His calendar is loaded with major races and he will go into them with specifics goals for each race.
With two years under his belt, he's made the leap from getting his feet wet in Europe to wanting to be on the sharp end of the action.
"I might not beat [Alberto] Contador or [Bradley] Wiggins, but I am going with the mindset to race against these guys and give everything I have," he said. "I want to focus on the process. I want to be at the start line, believing what I am capable of, and not being defeated before the race starts. That's the goal and that's the next step this year."
Talansky and Garmin are optimistic that his victory at Tour de l'Ain is just the first of many in Europe.
The goal this spring is to perform well in WorldTour events, namely Paris-Nice and the Tour de Romandie.
He said he rolls into the season feeling stronger than ever, thanks in part to a consistent winter of dedicated training coupled with the cumulative efforts of his first two seasons in the elite peloton.
"I finished in a good place last year and I carried that into the winter," Talansky said. "After a couple years in the pro peloton, I have noticed the difference. I come into this season in a better place than I've ever been."
Talansky enjoyed a three-month offseason in the U.S., a relatively long stint for the nomadic pros, spending most of the time with his fiancee in California.
Talansky also began training with California-based coach Jesse Moore, who worked under Max Testa. That collaboration helped give him focus and support during the important winter training season.
"All my training is very specific. Every ride has a purpose," he said. "It's not a question of just sitting on the bike for five hours every day. I do very well when something can be explained scientifically. I had a very training-based winter."
Talansky will certainly have a lot on his plate for 2013.
After Tour Med, he will return to his European base in Girona, Spain, then race Paris-Nice, Criterium International and the Vuelta al Pais Vasco.
Then it's a return to the Tour de Romandie, where he had a breakout second place to Wiggins last year, and then training at altitude, most likely at Lake Tahoe, Calif., before the Criterium du Dauphine.
That's a top-level racing schedule and Talansky hopes to make the most of it.
First up is Saturday's 145km fourth stage at Tour Med ending atop the Cat. 1 summit at Mont Faron.
Friday's third stage was canceled for security reasons. Lars Boom (Blanco) took an impressive win in Thursday's windy time trial at Cap d'Agde. Conditions were treacherous -- Marco Pinotti (BMC) crashed out -- while Talansky finished 11th, at 59 seconds, after leading at the intermediate split.
For Talansky, returning to the Tour Med this year is a bit like coming home to familiar roads. In his debut year in 2011, he rode to fourth up Mont Faron to finish fourth overall on GC, the first indication that he could race with the big boys.
"When I saw what they announced for the course, I was really excited about coming back," he said of Tour Med. "I only have good memories of the race from 2011. I generally like racing in France."
That's a good thing, because the carrot at the end of the stick is a likely start at the Tour de France this summer.
Last year, he was on the bubble, especially after his strong Romandie, but the team sent him to the Vuelta a Espana instead.
That tactic paid off as Talansky won his first European stage race at the Tour de l'Ain and rode to an equally impressive seventh overall in a brutally difficult and hard-fought Vuelta.
This year, he's already on Garmin's long list for the Tour and is planning his entire season around being in top form for his highly anticipated debut at the Tour.
"This year is being built around [the Tour]," he said. "Last year, there was a chance after Romandie. It didn't help getting sick at California. I would not have felt confident going to the Tour de France last year. This year, they want me there early on, so that gives me peace of mind and I can focus on each race, rather than always having the feeling of being stressed out on whether I will be at the start line in July. I race better that way."
Talansky, never one to shy from speaking his mind, is certainly setting the bar very high.
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