Taylor Phinney: I have to be happy with whatever level I get back to

American talks about his Tour de France debut in an exclusive Q&A

Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac) is set to make his Tour de France debut on Saturday, with the American an outside challenger for the 14-kilometre prologue in the German city of Dusseldorf.

The American moved to Cannondale-Drapac over the winter and has endured a slow start to his season, with niggling injuries slowing his progress. That said, the former maglia rosa wearer heads into his first Tour brimming with excitement. The race has been a major objective for Phinney since he was a youngster, and he follows in the footsteps of his his father, who is one of only three Americans to win multiple stages in the race.

There was a point when Phinney Jr. doubted his future in the sport after a serious crash at the US Professional Road Championships in Chattanooga in 2014 saw him fracture both bones in his lower leg, shatter his kneecap and severely injure ligaments and tendons in his knee. The recovery has been arduous, but Phinney has fought back to take the start and make history on Sunday.

Cyclingnews: Taylor, how is your form ahead of the Tour and Saturday's time trial?

Taylor Phinney: The time trial is a bit of an unknown. I've not had the perfect season so far. I feel like I've been coming back the whole time from three different incidents. I got through Tour de Suisse and got a decent result in the prologue there, and doing that race will bring me up another level. That said, everyone is coming here at a high level. I did come here in April to recon the course, so I'm going to go out there and do my thing. Wherever that puts me, that's where it puts me.

CN: What was the last time trial you did that you were truly happy with, where you were happy with the performance and got the result you wanted out of it?

Phinney: Well I was second in the ZLM prologue last year. National championships, which I won in the US, but that's not the same scale. It's been a while. The time trialing prowess, or ability, is something that's taken a bit more time to come back from what I anticipated, but I've had to be so patient with dealing with this leg. I still undergo twice the amount of therapy on my body after each stage of each race, and I still do PT three times a week to strengthen my left side. I'm patient with it but haven't got back to the point where I think that I can thrash my body and go super deep, but maybe that will be different on Saturday.

CN: Do the watts differ between one leg and the other?

Phinney: From an explosive test I can do 1,000W, almost 1,100W on my right side, and I can do 750W on my left side. From an explosive standpoint, I'm lacking on the left side, almost 25 per cent. In terms of holding a high-power threshold, a VO2 max effort, I can do similar numbers to what I could do before but it's still something that when I'm halfway through I'm pushing my left side along a bit more and the right side needs to take over and I start going a bit sideways. Hopefully I can get to a point where I don’t even think about it.

I was in the hospital room and they told me that even riding a bike again would be substantial recovery, so I have to be happy with whatever level I get back to.

CN: So without sounding too much like a cliché, being at the Tour is a victory in itself?

Phinney: For sure. I'm really, genuinely excited to be here. This is something that I've wanted to do for a really long time. This is the event that opened my eyes to how cool the sport of cycling is, when I was 14 or 15. It's taken me a little bit longer to get here, but I'm here. 

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