By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Carson, California
Curtis Gunn was the odd man in for much of the individual pursuit qualifiers at the USA Cycling track nationals in Carson, California. The veteran racer was the first rider of the day and had to race his heat alone, as there were an uneven number of starters. Gunn set the fast opening time that lasted for fifteen heats, until Taylor Phinney (TIAA-CREF-5280) blasted into a new fastest time. Mini-Phinney, as his ad hoc Slipstream team-mates call him, held the lead a few more heats until the business end of the day, with riders like Dan Harm (Rubicon-Chinook) as well as Slipstream-Chipotle's Brad Huff and Mike Friedman taking to the track. In the end only Huff was able to overtake the seventeen year old junior world time trial champion by half a second, setting up an exciting evening final.
"I was a bit nervous at the start, I didn't have any expectations of myself," said Phinney. "I was just ready to get it rolling. But once I started I felt great the whole time."
Taylor's parents, Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter-Phinney, were both on hand to cheer their son on. Davis, camera in hand, was on the track playing the proud parent. "I'm the proverbial soccer dad," he said. "It's been fun, we are just happy to get him onto the track. I never did this, so it's virgin territory. But he has a great coach, Roger Young, who has been really helpful for the one month of track riding he has done!"
Even though Taylor has only been on the track a dozen times in his life, he feels he is ready for the finals against Huff tonight. "It didn't feel like it was too hard, so I feel like I can go faster the next time." When asked if Huff should be scared, he laughed and said, "Yes!" before looking over both shoulders to see if Huff heard him.
Huff, who finished second last year to another team-mate, feels that he is already at a disadvantage going into the final. "It's really unfair, he has all those hormones!" he said jokingly. "He'll recover way faster than I will. There really should be some mitochondria handicapping," referring to Phinney's Olympian parents. But Huff is still going to try to best his runner-up position from last year tonight. "When you have a 17 year old junior screaming down your neck you've got to pull something off!"
In the women's pursuit, Dotsie Bausch (Colavita-Sutter Home) showed no mercy as she roared to an impressive qualifying time, twelve seconds faster than the rest of the field.