Boulder residents and close friends Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare), Alex Howes (Cannondale-Garmin) and Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) battled down the finishing straight in Logan for the first stage win of the race and the right to wear the yellow jersey during Tuesday’s second stage. Reijnen eventually took the win, with Howes second and Phinney third.
Breakaway survivors Greg Daniel (Axeon Cycling) and Johan Van Zyl (MTN-Qhubeka) were up the road as the race hit the finishing circuits in Logan for two final laps. Reijnen and Howes jumped up to the two leaders, and Phinney soon followed.
“Once we got on the circuit, I watched Kiel and Alex go up the road, and I had this flashback of sitting in the NBC booth last year at the USA Pro Challenge and actually calling that when they both went off the front of the first stage in Aspen, and I wanted to be there so badly last year because we all train together,” Phinney said.
“So I saw them go, and I was like, ‘Ah, man, you just gotta dig deep and you gotta get up there because you’re not going to be happy with yourself if you don’t,” Phinney said. “So my main goal was just to make it up to those two dudes and have a good time with them.”
Good times were definitely on the horizon as the fresh legs revived the lead group, which reopened the gap as the peloton hesitated. Reijnen said that although none of the three were going to sacrifice for the others, their friendship did provide a distinct advantage.
“I think the only advantage is that you can all trust each other to put your heads down and work to get that initial gap. But after that, it’s anything goes,” Reijnen said.
“I think if it hadn’t have been those guys in the group we wouldn’t have pushed as hard. We’re all prone to pushing each other, and none of us is going to give an inch, so I think that’s pretty cool.”
The Boulder trio eventually took over the post-stage press conference much the same way they did the stage finish, with each chiming in while the others were answering questions. Their jocular digs revealed how close their friendship really is.
Phinney started things off when he admitted he had “botched” the sprint a bit, but he said he knew he’d be happy with the result no matter who won.
Reijnen picked things up from there:
“Actually, on the downhill you gapped everyone off,” Reijnen said to Phinney, while explaining how the finale played out.
Phinney quickly interjected.
“You told me to go,” Phinney said. “He tricked me. I came out of the last corner with a little gap, and he’s like, ‘Go.’”
“Yeah you got it,” Howes added for emphasis.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll listen to my friend Kiel,’” Phinney said with no small amount of sarcasm.
“Those are the kinds of mistakes you make when you spend a lot of time out of the sport,” Howes fired back.
“I expected Howes to crash me out before I expected him to help me,” Reijnen added.
A few questions later, the banter started up again when Reijnen was asked to recount what happened in the finishing straight.
“Going into that last corner Taylor actually had a bit of a gap,” he said. “There was a gap to me and then I think a little gap behind me. So we got kind of a run at it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it past him in time to have momentum enough…”
“Sure,” Phinney interrupted.
“You milked him like a dang cow,” Howes said of Reijnen’s final move.
Reijnen continued: “I was worried Alex was going to come around me so I started my sprint really late, which was risky, for sure, because if Alex came in with any kind of speed … ”
“You smoked me,” Howes said.
“Did I? Cool,” Reijnen said. “OK. I guess we came out of the last corner and I smoked him.”
At the end of the question-and-answer period, Reijnen may have succinctly summed up the feelings for all three riders.
“Having those two guys on the podium, it’s probably my favourite win.”