Feature: Taylor Phinney focussed on beating Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara in 2013
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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Feature: Taylor Phinney focussed on beating Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara in 2013

by Shane Stokes at 11:48 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
American likely to sit out Tour, will ride Giro instead

Taylor PhinneyA year older, with a better build-up thus far under his belt: world championship silver medallist Taylor Phinney has said that there is good reason to believe that he can step up a level this year against the clock and to take the fight to rainbow jersey wearer Tony Martin and former champ Fabian Cancellara.

The talented American rider had a fine second pro season in 2012, winning time trials in the Giro d’Italia and USA Pro Cycling Challenge, taking second behind Martin in the worlds TT, netting third in the Chrono des Nations and fourth in both the Olympic road race and the Olympic time trial.

They are very impressive results for any rider, not least one who is just 22 years of age.

Given his youth, there’s plenty of room for improvement ahead. However he’s not simply relying on the natural physiological improvement that should come over the next few seasons, but also has identified two other factors that should lead to gains.

“I think having another Grand Tour under my belt [will bring improvement],” a relaxed Phinney said at yesterday’s team presentation in Belgium. “Hopefully the Giro this year, being able to go back and to complete that would just bump me up another level to where I am now. But also having a good winter is really important and I have had a very strong winter so far. A lot of very good training, no injuries.”

Phinney noted that he has had knee injuries holding him back in the last two off seasons. Fortunately, this time round that hasn’t been an issue and he has been able to work away uninterrupted. “I’ve been just training and focussing on what I need to do,” he said. “So I think being healthy and having a little bit of extra racing and more concentrated training will get me to that place I need I to be in to beat the Panzerwagen [Martin] and Fabian [Cancellara].”

Cancellara has dominated this area of the sport for many years, even if Martin has taken over the top slot at this point in time. However rather than setting a goal of taking a fight to the German and reclaiming his world championship crown after two years, he recently said that he was turning his attention towards the Classics and would focus less on time trials.

It was something that surprised many, but Phinney said that he understands where he is coming from. “He has what, four world championships, an Olympic gold medal…there is not much more you can do from there. And time trialing sucks a lot, it is an hour of pain…why would you want to do that to yourself?

“I want to do that to myself so that I can achieve the results that Fabian has, but I can totally understand that once you get those results, then you move on. It is sort of similar to me and the individual pursuit on the track. I won the world championships, they took it out of the Olympic programme, and I said ‘well, this a terrible four minutes of my life and now I am going to focus on something else, now I have reached as high as I can reach in that small, specific category.’”

That said, Phinney said that he would prefer Cancellara to keep his attention on time trials for a while longer. He’s not interested in having one less rival; for him, beating the best is what spurs him on.

“I have a lot of respect for Fabian…he has definitely been an idol and a hero of mine for a long time, ever since I started racing,” he explained. “So I kind of wouldn’t have mind testing myself against somebody like that, somebody who has that pedigree and that past. I will see him in the Classics. It would be cool if he can focus a little bit more on time trialing and then I can see how I match up against him, but he is getting to a different point in his career than I am.”

While he also wants to perform well in the Classics, Phinney doesn’t believe that he needs to focus on one area to the exclusion of the other. The calendar laid out for him leads him to believe he can do both, although he admittedly doesn’t have the same pressure to perform in the big one day races as Cancellara will.

Still, as a rider who twice won the Under 23 Paris-Roubaix, he wants to see how he compares in 2013. There’s no reason to believe that a big future lies ahead in this area too; the question is if he will make the breakthrough this year, or if it will take another season or two.

“Luckily for me the first half of the year is pretty Classics-oriented,” he said, talking about the balance between road training and time trials. “Then I can hopefully go to the Giro, finish the Giro, then go back home for a little rest and then really work….where I live in Boulder, Colorado is perfect for time trial training because it is just flat – one way you can go to the mountains, the other way you can go flat. And it’s at altitude. So yeah, I’ll be able to go home and really focus specifically on what I need to do.”

Tour, Armstrong and the caffeine/painkiller cocktail:

Taylor PhinneyFor all talented young riders, the logical question is when they will test their strength in the biggest race of them all, the Tour de France. Phinney has the race on his radar, but almost certainly not in 2013. Asked if he plans to do the Tour, he’s pretty clear that he doesn’t. “At this moment, no, I don’t think so,” he answered. “But eventually I’d like to do that.”

If he was on another team, it’s likely he’d be given a place on the team. But the BMC Racing Team feature two riders who could potentially win the race; Cadel Evans triumphed in 2011 and after a season hampered by a virus, he’s hoping to be back to his best in 2013. Tejay van Garderen was a fine fifth and should continue to progress this year, although Evans is laying claim to the number one slot at this point in time.

Phinney would undoubtedly be a strength on the flatter stages but still needs time to develop his climbing. The BMC Racing Team will be fully focussed on trying to take the yellow jersey to Paris and so it makes more sense for it to rely on tried and tested Tour riders this time round, while also giving Phinney an additional year to get ready to ride the race.

Somewhat inevitably, considering that both he and van Garderen are American, the duo were asked yesterday about their thoughts on the Armstrong doping situation. In response to a peculiarly worded question on the subject which spoke about US riders as the ‘bad guys’, van Garderen said that it was important not to blame just the involved American riders for the doping problems that existed in the sport. He pointed out that other nations had been at it too, then added that he felt that the situation was significantly better than before and that he and others could race clean.

Phinney previously raced for the Trek - Livestrong team as an under 23 rider, a squad owned by Armstrong. He’s seen the Texan’s star fade since then, and the former pro come under increasing pressure over his doping. “I don’t think it necessary surprised us,” he said of the testimony that was provided by multiple witnesses. “I think everyone who was tuned into the cycling world kind of knew what was coming, in ways.”

The young rider has already made his feelings public on the substance of performance enhancement in sport, speaking at length to VeloNation in October. He said then that a portion of the peloton was using legal medications in a way that was pushing the boundaries of ethics and safety, dosing themselves with caffeine and painkillers in order to try to get an edge.

Phinney’s comments on it earned him a lot of attention and plenty of compliments, and underlined an issue that WADA and others should be aware of. “I’ve always been someone who likes to rely on my own body to solve any sort of sickness, a cold or fever, as opposed to just jumping into taking Tylenol or whatever,” he said then. “So I wasn’t really comfortable with the whole painkiller/caffeine type of thing. In addition to that, it just felt uncomfortable that I would be fooling my body into feeling something that it wasn’t supposed to be feeling.

“Particularly with everything that has gone on in the past, I think that if we move away from taking anything, we have a great opportunity to become pretty much the cleanest professional sport out there.

He was asked about those sentiments yesterday, and what reactions he had thus far from other riders. “It was late in the year, that interview…people in the cycling world have short memories,” he said. “But it was important for me to get my thoughts out there, my preparation for races out there. We will see when we start racing again what the peloton is talking about and what the latest gossip is, but for me that interview was mostly just to kind of shine a light into a dark place and show people how my approach is completely different than all these things that you read in Tyler Hamilton’s book and in the USADA report.

“What I can do, what I did last year and what I have done my whole career has just been based off my own personal physique and approach to training. We will see how that has been received in a couple of weeks.”

He said that others on the BMC Racing Team had a similar view as well. “We have a pretty strict team policy as it is and I think our team policy booklet is very thorough and has been over the last couple of years,” he said. “So I think a lot of people share the same sort of feeling that I do, at least on my team and my inner circle. That is the best way as a team and as a rider to approach things.

“I am very comfortable with what happens here at BMC, and proud of what we can achieve.”


Also see: Tejay van Garderen Feature: I’ve dreamed about the yellow jersey since I was nine years old

To listen to the press conference, click here:


Taylor Phinney and Tejay van Garderen interview Jan 2013 by Velonationprocycling on Mixcloud






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