Just as Armstrongs fervent followers in the cancer community were conned, so too were up-and-coming riders, Talansky said. Armstrong, who made a two-year comeback in 2009-2010 and competed alongside Talansky, created an influential cancer-fighting foundation but also used the story of his survival of the disease as a shield to deny accusations.
He was charismatic, as a lot of liars are, and hes not a hero to me anymore, Talansky said. Hes also taken the brunt of the blame for a culture that was allowed to thrive for a long time. Now that the truth has come out, we can finally move forward. Testing has improved 1,000-fold in the last eight years.
Further evidence that cycling is ridding the peloton of dopers is in the numbers, Talansky said. Races are slower and the traditional power measurement of riders watts per kilogram is lower.
If you can do six watts per kilogram on a 30-minute climb in the last week, you could win, said Talansky, who finished seventh last year in the Tour of Spain, where he logged a power rating of 5.8 and winner Contador was at 5.88. It used to be seven, which is unthinkable now.
Talansky said riders like himself, 2012 Tour and Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins and Americans Tejay van Garderen and Taylor Phinney can win fans back to the sport.
I hope the public can find belief again, he said. Youll always have skeptics. You also have cynics who have decided its a dirty sport. To them I say, if you are dead convinced that what youre seeing is fake, dont watch it and dont buy a bike. All we can do is keep working ethically and refuse to compromise our values.
If anyone has an appealing image its Talansky. Hes a wiry, bespectacled, blond intellectual who likes to quote the late American distance runner Steve Prefontaine in Tweets: To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.
Talansky grew up in Key Biscayne because his parents liked the small-town atmosphere.
When he was a boy, we wanted his bike to be his mode of transportation not knowing, of course, that he would become a professional cyclist, said Talanskys mother, Susane Amick, who is an interior designer, massage therapist, Tai Chi instructor and radio voiceover artist.
Talansky rode everywhere around the island to fishing, kayaking and wakeboarding adventures with friends, to karate lessons and to the Donut Gallery.
At Gulliver Academy, he tried swimming and cross country. And when he had a stress fracture in his shin in 11th grade, he borrowed a friends bike to stay in shape.
He decided to go on a group ride with the older guys and I warned him, Andrew, thats four hours, are you sure? said Amick, whose boyfriend, Boris Fernandez, was a triathlete. He came home and said, Oh, that was so fun. From that minute on, he loved it.
Talansky joined the junior Team Laser sponsored by Laser International Freight owner Santi Gabino.
He was a natural built for the bike, lean, smooth, high RPM, Gabino said. He had the same focus and willingness to sacrifice that you see now.
The juniors did long rides through Kendall, Miami Beach and to the end of Everglades National Park at Flamingo. Talansky and a friend once rode to Key Largo and back on a whim. It took them eight hours. They raced throughout Florida and won state titles.