Last year’s Giro d’Italia was a defining moment in Taylor Phinney’s career as a professional rider, and on the eve of the 2013 edition of the race, the American discussed his aims for this year’s race.
In 2012, Phinney was seen as a promising young second-year pro. He had claimed world titles on the track [and U23 time trial worlds] and back-to-back wins in the U23 version of Paris-Roubaix while riding for Lance Armstrong’s and Trek’s U23 team. However, the opening 8.7 kilometres of the Giro d'Italia changed everything with Phinney winning the opening test and pulling on the race’s first maglia rosa. The promising road talent became an out-right star.
“I knew going into last year’s Giro that the time trial could be a defining moment of my early career. I set it out as big goal for the year. I was able to survive the first couple of days in the maglia rosa and then through a lot of suffering made it through the race,” Phinney told Cyclingnews.
Phinney eventually lost the leader’s jersey in the team time trial, but he’d made his impression on the race. He finished the race, his first Grand Tour, before heading the Olympics and Worlds, pulling out a silver medal in the latter. This year, with no opening time trial, and with a year of experience under his belt, Phinney has different objectives for the Giro.
“This year, it’s a little less straight forward on the goal side of things with no time trial at the start, but the main thing is to try and suffer less and still get through the race,” he told Cyclingnews.
Whereas last year BMC lacked a GC contender for the race, they start this year with Cadel Evans. Although the Australian has struggled for form and fitness following a virus-afflicted 2012 season, he still commands the role of GC leader.
“We go into the race with some overall classification ambitions with Cadel and that adds a different aspect to the team set up from last year. There’s the small dream of wining the team time trial and taking the pink jersey but there’s a lot of variables that go into that."
Logic would suggest that Phinney's best chances of shining will probably be in the individual time trials. However, as he showed at Milan San Remo and the Giro della Toscana, he can mix it up with the best one-day racers too. His powerful sprint has been met with a steady improvement in stamina and climbing, and the American has pinpointed a number of stages in the second and third weeks during which he will target getting into breaks.
“I'm mainly looking forward to getting my chance in one of the later stages and to go into a breakaway. If I finish the race, which I plan on doing, it will be my second Grand Tour finish. I had a lot of fun last year, and I’m looking forward to it.”
“As I approach the Giro, I’m thinking more big picture and about completing the whole thing and targeting more of the later stages. I think it’s a spectacular route.”
“I’ve been looking through the stages in the second and third weeks, and there are a number of stages that are listed as flat but are not necessarily flat and are not pure sprint stages. From my recent riding in Toscano, I’m in that transition from being the guy who is dropped on every climb to the guy who can survive and get better and better. It’s along the lines of someone like Daniel Oss. He’s a guy who I can look up to. He’s big like me but he can get over climbs and sprint well. It’s another stepping stone in my career."
Phinney recognises that last year’s Giro performance can’t be repeated. “It might not be as dramatic as it was last year, but it is very important in the development of my career.”
At 22, Phinney will soon have to decide on his racing home for the future. His three-year contract with BMC is up this year but at the moment, he says he will concentrate on racing and formalise his contract at a later date. BMC appear to be in the driving seat, ahead of other interested teams.
“We’re talking about re-upping, but I’ve been quite focused on the Classics and the Giro. The time I’ve had at BMC has been really enjoyable, and I think that I’d be hard pressed to go anywhere else. At the moment I’m just trying to focus on bike racing and we’ll work out contracts a bit later.”