Taylor Phinney: the hour, the Tour, and the team…
A few hours ago, Taylor Phinney won the fifth stage of the Tour of California. Afterwards he said it was one of the best victories of his career, but don’t expect him to calm down with satisfaction. The 23-year-old has many aspirations for the future and RIDE recently spoke to him to find out more about his chances of being in the BMC team for the 2014 Tour de France, his track racing and a few other matters. He’s a quick review of that discussion…
Taylor Phinney: “The hour record is also something I’ve thought about a lot…”
– By Rob Arnold
He was there in the Spring Classics, on the attack in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and optimistic about being part of another edition of Paris-Roubaix. Taylor Phinney has won the under-23 edition of the famous French contest but, at the age of 23, he knows he there is time for him to graduate to a winner in the elite ranks. Still, the tall BMC rider is a man in a hurry. He has won world titles before – as a pursuiter on the track and a TT of the under-23 category (in 2010, when he beat Luke Durbridge on a cold day in Geelong).
RIDE Cycling Review recently caught up with Phinney to get his appraisal on the Classics, if his track racing career is over – or just on hold, and what he expects should he make the selection for BMC’s line-up for Le Tour this July.
“I have a pretty clear recollection of most races that I do, especially the one-day Classics,” said Phinney. “I put a lot of effort into memorising the course beforehand and watching the previous editions – the last three or four hours of the race of the years prior – and usually after the race I will check it out.
“I like to watch how it unfolds because you learn a lot in the race but you learn even more when you get to see it on TV as well. If you can combine those two things I think it helps. I got that idea from a lot of classic team sports, especially in America, like football and basketball. I’m sure rugby players are like that too and the same with soccer players in Europe; they’d surely go back and review a lot of tape and watch a lot of games.
“I spend a fair amount of time studying our sport as well because it gives you the best sense of how your competition is functioning, how the other teams are working together, and what the instincts are in the race that you might not have seen when you were there because it is hard to read a race when you’re on a tiny little cobbled road and there’s stuff happening everywhere.” He wouldn’t win but he would learn.
“I basically deduced that I was doing way too much work in the breakaway. I was one of the strongest riders and I wanted to make it as far as I could for Greg but it would have been smarter for me to do less work and be less of a patron of the group – the guy who was sort of pulling everyone one along. I could have been more conservative. That’s where years of experience come into play but I’m sure eventually I’ll get better at that sort of stuff.”
Once the Classics campaign was over, it was back to his base in the States for a few weeks of rest before lining up for the Tour of California.
On 15 May, he sped ahead of the peloton and pinched a stage win from Peter Sagan and Matt Goss; the accomplished sprinters were 12 seconds behind Phinney. In Europe earlier that day, Cadel Evans had finished second in stage six of the Giro d’Italia. And so there was much rejoicing in the BMC Racing camp. The Australian veteran is ranked second overall behind his compatriot in the Italian race and the young American is enjoying success in California in advance of what he hopes will be his debut in the Tour de France.
“Tejay and I have a really great relationship,” said Phinney about the rider who BMC has slated for leadership this July.
“We raced together for a really long time and we’re very close friends. I was a groomsman at his wedding. I know that, if it were up to him, I would definitely be by his side in all the races that he’s doing. But I just have to work really hard the next couple of months with my training, with my diet, and make sure I’m up to the task of making the selection.
“It’s not yet guaranteed. I feel optimistic and confident about it but anything could happen. I have it as a goal that I can put into my sights so I’m excited to see what kind of work I can put in from now until the selection is made and really make a good case for being one of those guys on the team.”
During the course of the conversation with Phinney, we spoke a range of related topics including his background on the track and if there’s any hope that he’ll return to the velodrome. Like many in his realm, he expressed a frustration in the changes to the Olympic program and how that has influenced his career of late. “That’s definitely an unfortunate thing,” said Phinney about the omission of events he had been hoped to target in the future, the individual pursuit and the Madison. “It’s a long time ago that they took all that out [they were last contested in the Games in 2008] but for sure I’d been planning on going to the Olympics – at least for the individual pursuit – for a couple more Olympic cycles but it is what it is.”
Overnight, the UCI announced changes to the regulations relating to the world hour record with president Brian Cookson stating: “This new rule is part of the modernisation of the UCI Equipment Regulation. Today there is a general consensus that equipment used in competition must be allowed to benefit from technological evolution where pertinent. This kind of evolution is positive for cycling generally and for the Hour record in particular. This record will regain its attraction for both the athletes and cycling fans.”
Phinney has the traits of a rider capable of challenging for the hour record. But, like many who have expressed an interest in riding it, the particulars need to be sorted well in advance and with the knowledge that it could potentially interrupt the ‘regular job’ of road racing.
“For me, on my radar of big long-term cycling goals, I’m interested in the hour,” said Phinney while talking about his track racing.
“I’d like to try and break [Chris] Boardman’s [pursuit] world record and now that [Jack] Bobridge has shown us that it’s possible then it would be interesting to try. It is something on my mind but the hour record is also something I’ve thought about a lot as well.
“Based on me riding around in circles for hours and then hearing the reaction from the old greats who have actually done the hour record – it’s not the most pleasant of experiences, so it would be maybe something I would put off until a lot later on when I have a couple more Grand Tours in me and a few more years of racing.”
That leaves him with the road events for Rio or, should he return to the track, the omnium or team pursuit. So, it was suggested, being a man of influence surely you’d know three or four guys you could convince to get on the track and create a formidable team pursuit line-up… “For sure we have the horse-power to do it. But it’s harder to get guys from the WorldTour to commit.
“It would be easier to get some domestic riders or some young guys or even a guy like Tyler Farrar.
“I talk with Tyler Farrar a lot about the track and about the Madison and about the team pursuit. And he’s one rider who I’d love to race with on the track but it’s just not been logistically possible.”
Lots of things are possible in cycling. A sprinter wearing a pink jersey beat a Grand Tour winner in an uphill finish in Italy yesterday and, a few later, a TT maestro stole a stage in the Tour of California. Curious rules that no one really had the energy to understand anymore have been altered to renew interest in one of cycling’s oldest, most prestigious records. And young guys who had once raced into a rainbow jersey as individuals are now considering what influence they can have on a team.
Stay tuned to the Taylor Phinney story, there’s a lot more yet to come.