Ciao from Pesaro on the East coast, watching the Adriatic Sea from the hotel room I share with my team-mate Mathias Frank. Let’s talk about another team-mate of mine: Taylor Phinney. In the past five days, the world has discovered a phenomenal person. He’s the kind of champion that cycling needs. Without the most damaging of his three crashes, he would still be in the maglia rosa now.
For months, he’s had the prologue of the Giro d’Italia in mind and he started with the weight of being the hot favourite. Two days before the race, we had a press conference in the evening. As soon as it was over, it was time for dinner but Taylor jumped on his bike once again because he wanted to ride the course at approximately the same time as he was scheduled to race on Saturday. It wasn’t a necessity but he wanted his body to get used to this particular effort at this particular time of the day. It shows that he has a strong desire to make the most of his talent.
Taylor’s crash on stage 3 changed the scenario of the Giro. He was racing too much at the front and he was too close to the danger, people said. But he was right to be there because if there had been a gap on one second between two riders, he could have easily lost the pink jersey to Geraint Thomas. For instance, on stage 5 the time keepers applied a five-second gap, which is a lot compared to the differences created in prologues.
I’ve read that Taylor didn’t have to be up there because of the rule that neutralizes the last three kilometres. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Only in the event of a crash or a puncture or a mechanical, can a rider be classified with the same time as the group he was in. If the world of cycling wants better safety for GC riders and sprinters, I think that the last three kilometres should be neutralized in case of a bunch sprint on a flat road.
I know the arguments against this proposal. What if a rider attacks in the last kilometre and wins solo against the whole peloton? I return the question: when has that happened in the past twenty years? Not often on the flat for sure… Would there be less of a spectacle if everyone was crossing the line quietly behind the fifteen or twenty sprinters in contention? I don’t think so. The sprint on TV would remain the same and the crowd on site would see the other riders better.
Back to Taylor, he has impressed me a lot because of his maturity for a 22-year-old. He’s calm and he has a positive attitude. Even when he’s been unlucky, he keeps his morale high. He takes lessons from the difficult moments. He’s very well educated. It’s touching to see his mother following him at the Giro.
Had he been the real Taylor Phinney on Wednesday, we would have won the team time trial. But he had no strength in his legs. It’s surely the consequence of his crash. It happened at 70km/h because my SRM showed 60km/h further back. He went to two hospitals in Verona after the transfer by plane and then went to bed at 1.30am. On the rest day, he was only able to ride for fifteen minutes. On the morning of the TTT, he did nothing, he just came with us to recce the course.
Once the race started, at the first turn he took, I realized that he was the shadow of the real Taylor Phinney. Nobody can recover just like that from such a bad crash. At full capacity, he’d be the strongest of our team for a TTT. He’s the one able to make the whole team stronger. We lost a lot and we could have done better. Taylor was very disappointed for the team but he kept a smile on his face. He’s a good guy.
I personally have a hint of regret that things didn’t go better for us in the team time trial. I could have been closer to the pink jersey but it doesn’t bother me. My condition is good. There’s still a lot to do at the Giro and it’s a great pleasure to accompany Taylor in his discovery of the good and bad aspects of riding a Grand Tour.
Yours, Marco Pinotti