Days after his heroic-but-unsuccessful attempt to finish Tirreno-Adriatico's brutish Porto Sant'Elpidio stage within the time cut so he could start the the next day's time trial, BMC's Taylor Phinney said he is recovered from that heartbreaking 120km solo effort and is ready for Milan-San Remo.
"I went out and did three hours with the boys today around Tuscany," Phinney said from his Italian home on Thursday. "So that felt pretty good."
Phinney gained international acclaim Monday when he toughed out the 209km stage after all of the other riders in his gruppetto quit the race. Phinney was hoping to go for a stage win on the final 9.2km time trial the following day, but instead found himself riding solo in icy cold rain only to finish outside the time limit. After the stage, the race organizer apologized for the route's extreme difficulty, and Phinney, who said the effort was partially a tribute to his father Davis, admitted breaking down on the massage table.
But that was days ago, and now the first Monument of 2013 is up for grabs in the country Phinney considers his adopted home. Phinney lived in Italy with his family for three years until he was 15, speaks fluent Italian and has developed a following there; it's more than enough motivation to put the Tirreno disappointment behind him and look forward to Sunday.
"I've always loved Milan-San Remo," Phinney said. "It's always an unpredictable race. You look at the profile, and there's nothing super special, but it's always a really exciting race to watch, and it makes it a more exciting race to actually [compete] in knowing that you're giving the fans some good entertainment.
"I love how long it is, just everything about it," Phinney continued. "It's one of the only classics where the name really means something – it actually runs from Milan to Sanremo – so that's kind of special. And it's one of those courses that has remained unique throughout the history of the sport."
Sunday will mark the 22-year-old American's second try at La Primavera after finishing 113th last year, and he's looking to play a bigger role for BMC, whether that be as a support rider for teammates like Thor Hushovd, Phillipe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet, or if he's given a freer hand to play.
"I come into it in a lot better place physically," he said. "I'm just mentally more confident going into it than I was last year, and we have a very strong group of guys with some strong leaders.
"Thor was up there on that really hard stage in Tirreno, which is a good sign going into Milam-San Remo," Phinney said. "Phil [Gilbert] was in the front group most days at Paris-Nice, so that's another good sign. Greg Van Avermaet has been going really well for quite awhile, so those guys are going to be our main leaders, and the rest of us will see what we can do to help them or see what kind of role we can have."
Milan-San Remo also marks the start of the most important four weeks of the early season for Phinney, who has targeted Paris-Roubaix as his top objective. He won the U23 version of the race twice as a development rider and was the top American finisher in the World Tour race last year in 15th.
"It's what I've been preparing for and gunning for since November of last year," he said. "I've really focused on these four weeks, so with Milan-San Remo, Gent-Wevelgem, hopefully Flanders and then Roubaix, it's a big four weeks, and I end with my biggest objective of the early season."
After Roubaix, Phinney will take a brief break before tackling either Trentino or Romandie to bring his body "back up to speed" for the Giro d'Italia, where he won the prologue last year and wore the leader's jersey through four stages.
"The Giro is kind of a long way to go, starting in February and then going pretty much full gas all the way until the Giro," Phinney said. "But I was able to do it last year, and it worked out well for me, so I think doing it again this year is going to be fine."
Phinney admitted that he is also eager to jump into the Tour de France, but he doesn't know if that will be in the cards for him this year with BMC having a fairly stacked roster for the Grand Tours.
"We have a bit of a complicated Tour de France team with a lot of really big names," he said. "I'd love to do the Tour sooner versus later, but I respect the decision of the guys in the management who know the team best and can make the best decision there."