When Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Barracuda) saw that Taylor Phinney (BMC) had won yesterday’s stage of the 2012 Giro d’Italia, he said he could not avoid a flicker of patriotic pride at seeing the 21-year-old become the next American after himself to wear the pink leader’s jersey.
Vande Velde wore the leader’s jersey for a day back in 2008, when Slipstream-Chipotle won the opening team time trial before Franco Pellizotti took over the following stage. At the time, Vandevelde was the first American in pink in 20 years, since Andy Hampsten in 1988.
This time round the gap between US leaders has been considerably smaller: as part of the Garmin-Barracuda squad at this year’s Giro, Vande Velde says “you always want a teammate to win, but at the same time I’m very proud of Taylor.”
“The way he won it was pure class, there were no ifs or buts about it, he dominated it so much, that was impressive.”
Asked how big Phinney could be for American cycling, Vande Velde joked “well he’s a pretty big kid! Seriously, though, he’s already been putting in some pretty big performances since he was at school. He’s been around a long time already, and this is the next [stage in his] confirmation, yet again.”
“I don’t think he’s going to be a climber and he knows that. It’s typical of his intelligence that he knows what he can do really well, and he’s doing it. He knows that the prologue is what he can do and he targets the prologue. That [failing to look for realisable goals] is what a lot of people get hung up on,” - but Vande Velde, for one, feels that Phinney is avoiding that.
And who could be the next American to take pink? As the race focus switches to bunch sprints today, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) freely admits that it is a goal, but that the gap between himself and Phinney - 36 seconds - is probably too big to make it a reality at least today.
“We’ll try and control the final kilometres, [but] Phinney took a lot of time in the prologue so I don’t think it’s going to be that easy. But we’ll see. First we’ll try and win the stage, and if we can start getting closer with the bonus seconds, well you never know.”