Paris-Roubaix: Phinney ready to shine in ‘favourite race’
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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Paris-Roubaix: Phinney ready to shine in ‘favourite race’

by Shane Stokes at 6:17 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Roubaix
Hushovd, Ballan and Hincapie determined to show well

Taylor PhinneyHaving tasted victory in the Roubaix velodrome in the past, today marks Taylor Phinney’s professional debut in the cobblestone Classic. It’s a hellish event, but one he feels suits him perfectly. He’s psyched to perform as well as possible.

“I am really honoured to be part of the squad we have here. This has been my favourite race since I was a kid…I got to race it as a junior, as an Under 23 and then this year as a pro,” he said in the team’s press conference. “I love the race, I love the parcours, the course, the atmosphere, everything. I am really, really excited, especially to be alongside these guys here. I am expecting good things, I feel good about it.”

Phinney may not have ridden it before as a pro, but the 21 year old has already shown his class over some of the same cobblestone sections. He won the under 23 event in both 2009 and 2010, outsprinting ten riders on the first of those occasions and then returning twelve months later to outspeed Jens Debusschere (PWS-Eijssen Cycling Team) and Fabien Taillefer (Team Veranda Rideau 72).

In 2002 Tom Boonen finshed third in his first year as a professional, thus giving the world the first glimpse of a talent which could see him equal Roger de Vlaeminck’s four career victories today. Like Phinney, Boonen was 21 in his Roubaix debut. While an equal of that is very difficult to aim for, Phinney will try to perform as well as possible.

One complication though is that he could end up riding team duties for the team’s two captains. Thor Hushovd finished third, second and eighth in the last three editions, and has pinpointed the race as the biggest remaining target of his career.

Alessandro Ballan has been third in both 2006 and 2008 and is in his best form for quite some years. Both of those will require backing if they are going well, and Phinney may well find himself using his strength in their services rather than being able to think of his own targets. Still, whatever the result, he has an opportunity today to make a big impression.

Team leaders aiming high:

Hushovd also won the race as an under 23. He was unable to achieve his dream of taking the victory in the rainbow jersey last year, coming up against an immensely strong Fabian Cancellara and the Garmin Cervelo team tactics which put Johan Vansummeren on the top step of the podium. He grumbled afterwards about the latter but, in truth, he wouldn’t have beaten Cancellara anyway. The Swiss proved that when he powered away close to the line.

This year, he’s determined to pull off the victory. He’s now 34 and his chances are running out. However he’s yet to take a big result this season and had a quiet race last week in Flanders. If he succeeds today, it’ll be through a big turnaround.

“I think I am ready,” he insisted this week. “I would prefer to have a better preparation than I have had. But I think I have done some good training now and also some good races. I can feel now I have the level and I have good feelings on the cobblestones, so I am sure I will be there on Sunday.”

One of the things he feels will help him on the bone-jarring, teeth clattering cobblestones today is the new BMC Granfondo GF01 bike that the team will be using. He believes that it will help him in his goal, and that he has got it dialed in perfectly.

“I did two days on the cobbles after Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne Brussels Kuurne…one day I did sixty, seventy kilometres, and the second day I did all the cobblestone sections to try the new bike,” he said. “I like it a lot on the cobblestones. I found which wheel type to use and also which tyres and tyre pressure. All this is tested and was ready before this week. I knew a long time ago what I had to do before I came here.”

Ballan has shown better form in the run-up to the race, creating the decisive break last week in the finale of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen and riding strongly. His chances of winning the race were frustrated by his lack of a sprint, but in attacking three times in the final three kilometres, he showed that he is in perfect form.

“I feel very good. It is the first time I have such big motivation for this race,” he said. “I like Roubaix, I prefer the Tour of Flanders but in terms of history I think Paris-Roubaix is better. We are a strong team, we have good materials with the new bike. I hope for a good race.”

Seventeenth for Hincapie:

George HincapieIn addition to Phinney, the team will have another American rider in today’s event. George Hincapie is riding the race for the seventeenth time, sharing the record with Frédéric Guesdon, and is aiming to perform well on his favourite terrain.

He’s no longer speaking of himself as a potential winner, the effects of time blunting his ability somewhat, but his strength and experience means that he still has a lot to offer. He’ll be a right hand man to the two captains, and will seek to help them in whatever way is possible.

“Paris-Roubaix is a race that is one of the most important in terms of experience playing a big role. It is such a hard race…your body takes a pounding unlike any other race on the calendar,” he said. “I hope the team will look for me in the later part of the race to help a super Thor or a super Ale.”

Like Hushovd, he had a quiet race in Flanders but also feels like he’s improving. “I feel a lot better already this week than I did last week,” he said. “I am excited by how well the team rode last week, and I think we will be even better this weekend.”


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