Australian's 2015 Tinkoff-Saxo team bike
Winner of the 2015 Tour Down Under
New and old kicks and lids seen at WorldTour race
Wiggle Honda team bike of two-time World Champion
Taylor Phinney (Team BMC) made his 2013 race debut in Qatar
BMC rider building for the cobbled Classics and the Giro
The 22-year-old American rode both the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman, chasing stage victories and more importantly, a fat base of form and race miles to use as a foundation for his assault on the spring Classics.
"If you do both Qatar and Oman, it’s a kind of mini-Grand Tour because there are only two days between the two races. It's good racing, hot weather, great hotels and so you can't ask for much more," Phinney told Cyclingnews after collecting the team prize and a special Oman khanjar dagger as a trophy.
"It was a better sprint for me this time because the circuits were not so straightforward – there was a little climb in it. I also got great help, especially from one of the best domestiques in the world: Michi Schär, in the last couple laps. And Brent [Bookwalter] was up there helping me out on his birthday. I'm happy to come away from Oman with some decent results and a good team atmosphere. Now the really important stuff starts."
Phinney played a key part in BMC's victory in the team time trial stage at the Tour of Qatar but picked the first stage of the race as his best day of two weeks of productive racing.
"It was really windy but I always made the front group. Unfortunately the attacks didn’t come off and there wasn't a big selection but Brent won and so it was a good day," he said.
"Throughout both races I've felt I'm a lot further forward than where I was last year. I'm able to push myself a little bit more on the climbs and not be the first one dropped. I've struggled in the heat but it means good things for next couple of months."
Most of the riders flew out of Oman on Saturday, night heading back to the cold weather of the European winter. Phinney will be in Belgium next weekend for the start of the cobbled season and then to his European base near Quarrata, Tuscany
"I'm going to do Omloop Het Nieuwsblad next Saturday. I'm on for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, too, but that may not happen," he said.
"I'm in Belgium for the weekend and then go back to Italy to ride Strade Bianche. That'll be nice because it’s close to my home in Tuscany and a really special race –one I haven’t been able to do yet. After that it's Tirreno-Adriatico and straight into the Classics."
Phinney has selected Paris-Roubaix as his big goal of the spring.
"Paris-Roubaix is the one for me, the biggest goal for me in this early season," he said. "After that I've got a couple of weeks to recover and then prepare for the Giro d'Italia."