It has been a long time coming, but Taylor Phinney (BMC) will finally return to the Belgian Classics at this weekend’s Gent-Wevelgem. It has been two years since the American has raced at the Classics, after breaking his leg in a crash at the USA national championships back in 2014.
Before his accident, Phinney was a key man for the team’s leaders on the cobbles, and the team are hoping he can be there once again. However, how he’ll fare is yet to be seen and the team are not putting any pressure on him going into the weekend.
“First, we will have to see what happens at Gent-Wevelgem. Our leader will be Greg, but we can play during the race,” said directeur sportif Fabio Baldato. “He could have a free role, and his position could be important for the team. He was already working for the others two years ago at Flanders when he was in the early break he was the man that made the day for us. We will see. Taylor is an important man for the Classics coming up.”
Phinney has had a long road to recovery, a process that is still ongoing, and the team are still conscious of not putting too much strain on him. He’s completed 13 race days so far this season, compared to the 36 he’d done by the same point in 2014, and last competed at Tirreno-Adriatico. To give him some extra racing in the legs before the Tour of Flanders and Pairs-Roubaix, Phinney will ride the Three days of De Panne for the first time next week, but the team are happy with the progress he’s making.
“Tirreno was a great step,” said Baldato. “He’s already great Taylor. What we know, is that he needs more time between races to go back and do physiotherapy to be great. That is why we don’t want to use him too much. He’s good, and I’m sure on Sunday at Gent-Wevelgem, we will have a lot of riders that we can use better if they are fresher, and they can make the race.”
Phinney won’t arrive in Belgium until early on Friday while his teammates are heading out to the start of E3 Harelbeke. He and Rick Zabel will swap in for Stefan Keung and Floris Gerts at Gent-Wevelgem. Baldato believes that Phinney’s presence alone is a good boost for the team.
“I need to talk to him, but I know that he is very motivated,” Baldato explained. “During Tirreno, he was with Greg, and he was one of the guys who really kept up motivation, morale. He is always joking. He’s good for the ambiance of the team.”
Gent-Wevelgem will take place on Sunday, March 27.
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