Ace chrono rider times solo attack to perfection
While Taylor Phinney (BMC) is no stranger to the top step of the podium with victories in both the individual and team time trial disciplines, today's dramatic solo victory in stage 4 at the Tour of Poland was the first time the 23-year-old American had won a road race as a professional.
Phinney's finishing kick had gotten him close to victory before, such as third place results in this year's Giro della Toscana and stage 6 at the Tour of Oman in field sprint finales, but on the streets of Katowice, Poland it was his renowned time trialing prowess which propelled the BMC rider to the stage win.
A multi-time individual pursuit world champion on the track and a silver medalist behind Tony Martin at the 2012 time trial world championships, Phinney launched off the front of the peloton with 7km to go, built up a lead of 15 seconds, and held off the hard-charging peloton by the slimmest of margins.
For Phinney, it was a dream come true.
"This is how I always dreamed of winning – foiling the sprinter's plans at the end of the race," said Phinney. "It was sort of a Fabian Cancellara-style, Milan-Sanremo victory scenario. It's really amazing to have it happen and it was a great feeling to finally put my hands up."
"I told Taylor he could try an attack, but it was amazing what he did," said BMC's assistant director Fabio Baldato. "It was like a prologue – and I was screaming that to him on the radio. I told him to go full gas and don't look back. He was a machine."
With 8km remaining in the stage Valerio Agnoli (Astana) launched a solo attack which was soon neutralised. Phinney then went on the offensive, but was hoping for some company.
"With six-man teams here, I thought it would be harder to bring guys back, but nobody came with me," Phinney said. "So I just put my head down and decided I wasn't going to look back and slowly commit to it and give it everything I had.
"It was twisty and turning enough that I could maintain a lot of speed. I had a lot of power, but the last couple of kilometers were excruciatingly painful. I crossed my fingers that it wouldn't be one of those finishes where the guy gets passed 20 meters before the line."
Just shy of 20 meters to go, Phinney allowed himself a quick peak back to make sure that wasn't the case, and he was able to raise his arms in victory as Steele Von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp) claimed the field sprint for second place in his wake. The peloton was so close that Von Hoff and company were credited with the same finishing time as Phinney.
"When we got into the final circuit I told myself that maybe this was the ideal terrain to try an attack," said Phinney. "I think I have a good feeling for Poland because in Warsaw in 2009 I won the world championship in the individual pursuit."