Phinney aiming for Tour de France return after sponsors save team

Chris Froome situation puts 'everybody is in limbo'

Taylor Phinney is targeting a return to the Tour de France after his high profile debut in 2017, and in typically maverick style is also pondering riding across Siberia later this year with fellow pro and adventurer, Gus Morton.

Phinney was one of the best known names on Jonathan Vaughters' team, now known as EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale, whose future career briefly hung in the balance after sponsorship fears almost sank the American outfit last autumn.

The Coloradan, though, kept his cool. "I'm never really that anxious anymore, after recognizing that there's so much more outside of this sport," Phinney, speaking to Cyclingnews in Girona, Spain, said. "But I wanted to give Jonathan and the team a chance to save things. I wasn't about to go anywhere else, so I just waited it out."

Unsurprisingly perhaps, given how precarious the team's situation was, Phinney is enthused by his new sponsors.

"A lot of cycling teams are sponsored by billionaires or by sponsors with money that you don't really know where it's coming from, or lottery money. I love that we're promoting education and it runs parallel with thoughts that I've been having about going back to college when I finish racing."

The 27-year-old's spring programme includes racing in Abu Dhabi, the Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo, plus all the Belgian Classics through to Paris-Roubaix. After that he will return to the United States to race in the Tour of California, before using the Tour de Suisse as his final warm-up prior to starting his second Tour de France.

Phinney revelled in making his debut in last July's Tour, in which his Colombian team mate Rigoberto Uran took second overall in Paris, to Chris Froome.`

"Honestly, it felt like the most natural and most comfortable race of my entire career, like finally I'd made it to this one race that I'd always wanted to do," he said.

"I've always felt more comfortable in those situations. I loved the Olympics for that same feeling. I know that I have to be at my best and it's same with the Tour. And we had an amazing Tour as a team."

But like many of his peers he is both weary and wary of the growing tensions over Chris Froome's Adverse Analytical Finding for salbutamol and the lack of progress with resolution of the case, which is now threatening to continue into the summer.

"Obviously everyone was disappointed (by the news)," Phinney said wearily. "Same old shit, that's cycling right…?"

"I had this idea that I wanted to go out and film myself taking 32 puffs of salbutamol and see what happened, you know - see what a double over dose of salbutamol would feel like, but that’s not really my style.

"I've known Chris Froome for a long time. I don't view him - and I've spoken to other riders about this - as somebody who is, quote-unquote, a 'doper.'

"This news comes out and then everybody is in limbo. Nobody knows what to think,and what kills the sport is the wondering and people being up in the air. It's the same old shit. But the whole sport gets rubbed through the shit most of the time because of the history," Phinney continued. "But it doesn't apply to me and it doesn't apply to our team."

The American was sceptical of Romain Bardet's call for the peloton to show more solidarity in taking a stance on the Froome case. "We have so many different people from so many different cultures with so many strong opinions, which is what makes cycling beautiful to watch but makes it very difficult for us to make any decisions together," he said.

"I just want to use what I have to race well in the races I want to race well in, but then to go and do something else — to create content, to inspire people who have no idea who Chris Froome is and bring the bike more to the world and share my personal love with the bike, as opposed to being stuck in this endless cycle of 'Tour de France rider tests positive.'"

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