Taylor Phinney has explained that his 2012 Olympic ambitions played a significant part in his decision to sign for BMC over RadioShack. The American rode for RadioShack’s feeder team Trek-Livestrong last season, but opted to turn professional with BMC in order to guarantee a smooth build-up to the London games.
“RadioShack could offer a one-year contract but BMC could offer two, three, four years,” Phinney told Cyclingnews at the BMC training camp in Denia, Spain. “With the Olympics in 2012 and my big focus on either the time trial or some track events, I wanted to be certain that I’d be riding the same bike and wasn’t going to have to be worrying about contract issues. So really that’s what it came down to at the end.”
Phinney admitted that it was a difficult to break his ties with the Trek-Livestrong set-up, but he is confident that he has made the correct decision.
“I talked to Lance a couple of times and he’s been so far supportive and he knows that if he were in my position he would have done the same thing,” he said. “It was definitely a tough decision, there were some loyalties that I felt to Lance and to Trek-Livestrong and to CSE, which is the company that runs RadioShack and Trek-Livestrong, but ultimately I just had to do what was best for me.”
BMC was a natural destination for Phinney, given his family’s close ties to two senior members of the squad’s staff. His father Davis rode for Jim Ochowicz’s 7-Eleven team in the 1980s, where Max Testa was team doctor. Both men are now important figures at BMC and in a way, Phinney’s arrival at the team marks something of a homecoming.
“It just kind of made sense that if I was going to go anywhere else to go to BMC,” he acknowledged. “Obviously it was a hard decision, but you just have to do these things in business and in sport.”
London 2012 - the road or the track?
The exclusion of the individual pursuit from the Olympics in favour of the omnium means that Phinney is likely to focus his medal ambitions on the road rather than the track. After winning back-to-back world pursuit titles, the 20-year-old is frustrated that the event will not be on the programme in London.
“I have to transition over to the omnium if I want to stay on the track, and the omnium isn’t an event that I have the same passion for as I do for individual pursuiting, just because it’s not controlled,” Phinney told Cyclingnews. “The individual pursuit is 100 percent me. The omnium is six events, there are a lot of things that can go wrong and there’s definitely some luck involved.”
Instead, Phinney looks set to turn his attention to the time trial and he is confident that he can develop further in the discipline with BMC. After winning the US national and world U23 titles last season, he will focus exclusively on the road in 2011.
“I’m not going to do any track races this year. Maybe the world championships, but it doesn’t factor in very well with the Classics season,” he said. “Right now I’m hoping that I can make it on the road and be a factor on the road in 2012. But I know that the omnium is always there, and I know that if I really need to and if I have the passion for it, I can go back to the track.”
A Tour start in 2011?
With consecutive victories at the U23 Paris-Roubaix to his name, it is no surprise that one of Phinney’s primary aims in his debut season is to gain selection for BMC’s Classics squad. On the cobbles, he expects to ride in the service Alessandro Ballan, George Hincapie and Marcus Burghardt, but he will have the opportunity to chase his own results in other races on the calendar.
“It’ll be a learning process, but in some races, like prologues and time trials, I’ve shown in the past year that I can be up there with the top guys,” Phinney told Cyclingnews. “I’m looking forward to putting the miles in on the front to help the team out and I know that the directors will give me my opportunity when it’s the right time.”
One of those opportunities might even come at the Tour de France. In spite of Phinney’s tender years, some senior members of the squad believe his time trialling pedigree would make him a formidable asset to BMC’s chances in the stage two team time trial.
“I know some of the bigger guys would like to see me at the Tour de France for that team time trial, but that’s up to the sports directors and the guys who make the decisions on the team,” Phinney said. “We haven’t really talked about it that much, it’s just been brought up in passing. It’s like a little Christmas present that I can get excited about.”
If Phinney doesn’t figure in July, it’s probable that his Grand Tour debut will have to wait until 2012. He is currently scheduled to ride the Tour of Utah and the Quiznos Pro Challenge in August, making a Vuelta a España start unlikely.
Phinney will also be one of the main attractions at May’s Amgen Tour of California and he is conscious that there is a growing sense of anticipation about his prospects in American cycling circles. However, even as he makes his first fledgling steps at the highest level of the sport, he carries the weight of expectation lightly.
“Most of the pressure that I feel comes from myself and what I think I am capable of. Outside pressure doesn’t really factor in too much. It’s mostly my goals that I’m trying to achieve,” he said. “There’s a whole generation of American guys who are stepping up and I’m just excited to play an important role in the next however many years and see how my career progresses.
“But no matter what, if I complete my goals, if I do what I set out to do, then as long as I’m happy that’s all that really matters for me.”