RadioShack, BMC and Luxembourg team in contention for American's signature
Taylor Phinney faces a tough decision ahead of stage three of the Tour de l' Avenir today - whether he should he continue in the race after crashing out of the lead yesterday.
He faces a more delicate decision when it comes to choosing his team for next year however, having three of the most powerful suitors in the sport scrambling for his signature: RadioShack, BMC and the newly-formed 'Team Schleck'.
Phinney went into stage two of the French stage race in the leader's jersey but treacherous conditions saw the American hit the deck and although he finished the stage, he lost the lead to British rider Alex Dowsett and was taken to hospital for x-rays. There were no broken bones but with the Worlds on the horizon Phinney isn't willing to take any chances as he prepares to race in Australia.
"There were a few oily spots on the road and people were crashing everywhere," Phinney told Cyclingnews from his hotel last night. "Riders were going off the road and with 20km to go we were coming down this descent. One moment I was up the next I was sliding on my left arm but I managed to get my whole left side pretty good.
"I was in shock for a little while and not moving my left arm or shoulder very much and the doctor was worried about it. They were trying to get me in the ambulance but I wanted to finish and didn't want to quit the race. I knew right when I crashed that my yellow jersey hopes were over but I'm glad I could finish.
"It's up for grabs whether I start," Phinney said of the likelihood of his continuation in the event. "If it's raining and it's dangerous I won't start. Basically it's the biggest race here for some guys and everyone is taking risks so there's been a lot of crashes.
"I don't want to get the wounds dirtier or risk another crash. I came here to win the prologue and help the team win the overall. One objective is completed but I also wanted to train for the Worlds."
Before heading to the world titles in Australia, Phinney will return home to the US for the national time trial championships in order to fit one long time trial under his belt. His ride for next year has yet to be finalised, however.
As little as two months ago it was widely regarded that he would sign for RadioShack, moving up from its feeder squad, Trek-Livestrong. Several teams have since entered the fray with RadioShack only committed to the sport for one more year and Phinney looking for longevity ahead of and beyond the 2012 Olympics.
"RadioShack was our thinking two months ago but I had a couple of people open my eyes to other possibilities that are out there and the more insurance other teams can give me. I think Johan [Bruyneel] will continue a team after 2011 but it's not definite and that important at the start of my career," Phinney said.
"I want to be on the same team for the next two years just so I don't have to change bikes or anything like that for the Olympics. That's why the options have opened up. Once they opened up it was like opening the floodgates. There were a lot of different offers and angles."
At least five ProTour teams turned their attention to the American, although the Phinney camp has narrowed the prospective squads down to just three.
"If I had to leave RadioShack I wouldn't be super happy just because I've formed a great bond with the people at Trek-Livestrong, CSE, Lance and I had a good time racing with them at the Tour of Denmark even though I crashed there too. I need to stop doing that, don't I?
"But I just have to look out for myself and be selfish. There are times in your career when it's important to do that and I think this is one of those times but nothing has been determined yet. It's a cool position to be in but also a stressful one. You don't want to make any enemies or piss anyone off.
"My agent has been approached by more than five Pro Tour teams but we've narrowed it down to the Schleck team, then there's RadioShack and BMC. For now those three look like the right options."
One option that isn't on the cards is a move back to the Jonathan Vaughters-led Garmin-Cervélo team. Phinney rode for Vaughters' development squad before making the switch to Armstrong's Trek-Livestrong outfit.
"With the recent Garmin-Cervélo deal I think JV has enough on his plate. I talked to him a bit at the Tour of Utah and while it's an amazing squad they've got a lot on their plate at the moment."
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