Future looks uncertain for three Garmin neo-pro signings
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Future looks uncertain for three Garmin neo-pro signings

by Jered Gruber at 5:33 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Possible additions from Cervelo Test Team could see spots on ProTour roster disappear

The new cooperation between Garmin-Transitions and Cervelo, to create Garmin-Cervelo for next season, will create a number of intriguing possibilities, especially if the rumored superstars, Heinrich Haussler and Thor Hushovd, move over to Garmin, but the flip side of the coin is slightly less rosy, especially when taking a closer look at the young talents that were supposed to make the leap to the top level of the sport in 2011 with the team of Jonathan Vaughters.

It looks possible that the three talented young signings for the upcoming 2011 season and beyond will see their ProTour debuts pushed back according to Cyclismag.com. Andrew Talansky (CalGiant-Specialized, National Team), Ramunas Navardauskas (VC La Pomme Marseille), and Alex Howes (Holowesko Partners) appear like they could be racing for the Garmin development team for 2011, Holowesko Partners, not its ProTour big brother. All three riders are graduating from the U23 ranks in 2011, so this was the next step in the development ladder for them, as national team rides would effectively dry up next season.

Talansky has had a banner year with top results both at home and abroad in Europe. Talansky finished 6th overall at the Tour of the Gila, then topped that off with victory in the NRC Joe Martin Stage Race uphill time trial. Just days after that, he headed off to Europe for what would prove to be a hugely successful five week block of racing. In the little over a month that the 22 year old spent racing with the National Team he racked up a series of breakout results. His debut race at the Ronde de l'Isard saw the California resident to a third place finish on the oft used mountaintop finish at the Tour de France, the Plateau de Bonascre - just days later, a third place overall became one of the biggest results of his career. At the Volta Ciclista Provincia Tarragon, Talansky managed to go even better: he won a stage, wore the leader's jersey for a time, and eventually finished 2nd overall. In his final race of the three stage race trip, the Tour des Pays de Savoie, Talansky took another win in stunning solo fashion after riding away solo on the final climb of the day on the difficult Col de San Carlo climb. Upon his return to America, Talansky continued his winning run with victory in the U23 National Championship Time Trial. Following a midyear break, Talansky is building his form for the upcoming Tour de l'Avenir at the difficult Giro della Valle d'Aosta - he currently sits in 11th.

The season of Lithuania's Ramunas Navardauskas has been at least as good as Talansky's, arguably better. The 22 year old can count victory at the U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege as well as stages at the Boucle de la Mayenne and the Ronde de l'Isard to his credit in 2010, but that's only scratching the surface, as the immensely talented rider has shown himself capable over nearly all terrain with 4th at the U23 Tour of Flanders, 8th at the U23 Paris-Roubaix, 5th at the mountainous Ronde de l'Isard.

Alex Howes has not had nearly the season of the first two, but his results of 2009 still ring resoundingly - Howes was a double National Champion in 2009, both in the road race and the criterium.

While a spot on the Holowesko team in 2011 is certainly not a terrible place to be, it's not the ProTour, nor is it what the trio signed on for. In an interview last month, Andrew Talansky talked about the contract that he had signed with Garmin for 2011 and beyond and how pleased he was for the chance to develop without a great amount of pressure within the three year window of his contract.

"With a three year contract, they've given me the opportunity and said, ok, we believe in you. I have the time to develop and adapt to that level of racing."

While that dedication to his development will certainly not be lost in 2011, it's not exactly what a rider like Talansky was hoping for, nor would he likely have opted for that slot had he known what was going to happen, especially considering the fact that he admitted to having the chance to sign for another ProTour team.

"There was another team, but I don't really want to say who it was. With that said, it was a pretty amazing position to be in to actually have to make a choice like that between two ProTour teams. In the end though, I'm very happy with the choice that I made."

If the news is in fact true, both Talansky and Navardauskas will have to be feeling a certain amount of disappointment. While it isn't known what other offers Navardauskas had at the time of signing, it would seem a relatively safe bet that Garmin was not his only suitor. The delay in the ascension to the ProTour ranks could be interpreted as a good thing, because an extra year of pressure free development would not hurt any of the three, but that's a difficult pill to swallow for some of the top U23 prospects in the world - riders that have shown themselves ready for the next step a la Tejay Van Garderen or Peter Stetina.

UCI Rules

An even more intriguing sidenote brought to light by The Inner Ring blog is the issue of team size and could well be the saving grace for at least two of the three new signings. The new UCI rules for 2011 will make for some tightrope walking for Garmin. The new rules outline a cap of basically 28 riders on a team. A team can receive extra spots if it signs on new professionals, but the overall limit is 30. The maximum number of riders on a team with no new professionals is 28, while it's 29 if one neo-pro is signed, and 30 if two all the way up to five neo-pros are part of the team.

Jonathan Vaughters's Garmin team currently employs 27 riders, and if none of the neo-pro's make the jump to the ProTour level, that means he'll only have one spot available, and right now, that spot is tentatively in the hands of FdJ's Christophe le Mevel, who was supposed to have signed already, but hasn't.

The UCI rules would give hope to at least two of the neo-pros though, as Vaughters has said that he wants to race with the UCI maximum of 30 riders next season. If that's the case, then the UCI mandates that two neo-pros be a part of that sum, which would be a saving grace for at least two of the three signings for this year.

In the end, it looks highly likely that the Garmin team will see a cleaning house of its ranks heading into 2011, as space will certainly need to be made if riders like Haussler and Hushovd will make the jump to the Argyle Army. It won't be just the three neo-pros feeling the bite of the new agreement with Cervelo.

The budding pros at Garmin aren't the only ones looking to the future with a bit of trepidation. The shuttering of the doors of the Cervelo Test Team will also see its two stagiaires looking for a way on to the ProTour elsewhere. Both Swede Alex Wetterhall and Eritrean Daniel Teklehaymanot have stagiaire rides through the rest of the season. While their chances with Cervelo will certainly have evaporated, they will hopefully get the chance to show their wares in the remaining races of 2010.



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