Phinney on Paris-Roubaix: ‘This is my number one race of the year’
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Friday, April 5, 2013

Phinney on Paris-Roubaix: ‘This is my number one race of the year’

by Shane Stokes at 4:33 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Roubaix
‘It is a brutal race, it is a terrible race, but it is something so special’

Taylor PhinneyTwice a winner of the Under 23 Paris-Roubaix, Taylor Phinney sounded both excited and confident in today’s pre-race press conference, believing that he is in the right condition to challenge for a result on Sunday.

The young American missed last Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen due to a knee niggle, deciding to play things safe rather than risking his participation in the Hell of the North. He said today that he was pleased that he took that choice, and that he feels fully ready for Sunday’s battle.

“The knee is good, really good actually,” the BMC Racing Team rider said. “We made a calculation before Flanders…I figured that I could race, but that I would maybe do more damage to myself and put Paris-Roubaix in jeopardy. So I decided to go 100 percent all in for Paris-Roubaix and skip Flanders.

“I’m happy that I did that. I’m happy to be here healthy. This is my number one race of the year, so I wanted to make sure I came here at 100 percent.”

Phinney has long enjoyed racing on cobbles, having both the strength and also the agility to perform strongly there. He won the under 23 edition in 2009 and then repeated that feat one year later as defending champion. Last season he made his debut in the pro version and finished a very solid 15th, just over a minute behind the group sprinting for seventh.

Phinney was asked to ride for Thor Hushovd and Alessandro Ballan in the race, and thus didn’t have the chance to chase the best-possible personal result. Despite that, he was very upbeat after the finish. “It was quite hard but honestly I felt amazing today,” he said. “I had great legs, stayed safe and did a lot of work on the front.”

Unsurprisingly, he set the race as his top goal for 2013, telling VeloNation last October that he most wanted to perform there. “The Classics are the biggest focus of the first half of the year,” he said. “Paris-Roubaix is the number one goal, then the second-biggest will be the world championship time trial in Florence.”

Asked today to explain why he had such an affinity for the event, he said that it was hard to fully explain his feelings. “There are a couple of guys who are just really, really passionate about this race. It is kind of like if you have a girlfriend and she asks ‘why do you love me?’ You can kind of try to answer, but it is just that feeling you have.

“I just love this race, I always get really excited about it. It is a brutal race, it is a terrible race, but it is something so special. You can’t really describe it, just feel it.”

Directeur sportif Fabio Baldato is clear on what the target is: for Phinney or Thor Hushvod to be in the top three. “The goal is like all the other Classics…for sure, to try to be on the podium,” he said. “And after that we will see.”

The team was outmanoeuvred last week at Flanders, with Greg van Avermaet being the best of its riders in seventh place. This time round, Phinney believes the team should and can aim for more. “I think we come here with a really strong team, and a guy like Thor, who is very passionate about this race,” he said. “And I’m very passionate about this race. Like Fabio said, the podium…getting into that velodrome…it is just a beautiful race. So I think we are all really motivated.”

Given that the race is such an important target for him, he’d clearly like to perform very strongly. However the 22 year old emphasised that there is no rivalry with Hushovd, and that the team’s interests come above his own ambitions. He knows that Hushovd is nearing the end of his career and has set Paris-Roubaix as his top goal; Phinney hints that if it comes to it, that he will sacrifice his chances for the Norwegian, if needs be.

“Thor and I get along really well. He is someone I would call a good friend. He has had his struggles unfortunately in the past year, year and a half,” he said. “The whole team wants to see him at his best, as much as he wants to see himself at his best. Hopefully we can see that on Sunday and I will be there for him. We are hoping to be up there in the final, and to play our cards.”


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