It’s nearly a year since Phinney crashed out of the national road championships in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and shattered his left leg. Since then he has undergone multiple surgeries – the latest of which was in January but no date or race is confirmed for his comeback. Originally the American pencilled in a comeback at the Dubai Tour in February but those plans were later shifted with a potential return for the Tour of California.
The US race is just a matter of days away and Phinney is not yet in the required shape to take part, and Ochowicz, rather understandably, is taking a more pragmatic view on his rider’s recovery.
“He had a severe injury to his leg and he’s still in rehab. He needs to be able to do so many Watts with that leg and so many kilometres in training per week. We’re monitoring that progress and he’s moving in the right direction, that’s definitive. He had a second surgery in January in order to remove some of the swelling from the first surgery. That appears to have been successful,” Ochowicz told Cyclingnews during the Tour de Yorkshire.
“He’s not yet ready to race and I can’t tell you yet when he’ll be able to start racing again. We’re monitoring it again week by week.”
An ideal situation for both rider and team would see Phinney return to racing at some point this season but even that cannot be confirmed at this stage. Ochowicz believes that a 2015 return would do wonders for the rider’s confidence and morale but he added that patience was paramount after such a career-threatening injury.
“I hope he’ll race again this season because I think it would be important for him to get some races in just for confidence. That would be good for him and I’d love to see that happen so that he can have some confidence going into the winter and then come back in the spring for Paris-Roubaix.
“I can’t put a comeback down in terms of a percentage but he’s not ready yet and we take it week by week. It could be two months, three months, four, I don’t know yet.”
Last month Robbie McEwen – who suffered a similar injury in his career – voiced concern and questioned whether Phinney could return to the pre-injury highs of his racing career. Injuries or rehabilitations are never totally identical, of course, and when asked about Phinney’s long-term ability Ochowicz responded:
“I don’t know. He doesn’t know. The medical staff don’t know. We just need to make sure that we take steps forward and that he doesn’t slip backwards. Patience is virtue that we have and we’ll wait as long as we have to.”