Taylor Phinney "definitely" had doubts over his selection in the US five-man road team for the London Olympic Games, especially when it came to who would race the 44km individual time trial on August 1.
"When it comes down to a selection committee you never really know," he told Cyclingnews from Boulder. "I was more confident about being part of the road race than about the time trial just because I'm one of the only guys in the US that can help Tyler Farrar in the final."
Phinney goes so far as to admit that his selection is a "gamble" but given he won't be lining up for BMC Racing Team at the Tour de France, believes that fresh legs will be heavily in his favour and may have had a considerable bearing on his being named in the five-man US team.
The 21-year-old got the nod for the race against the clock over Dave Zabriskie, 11 years his senior. With no US men's road cyclist meeting the automatic selection criteria for the Games, the eight-man committee chose Phinney for his medal potential. It will be his second Olympic Games appearance, having represented his country on the track in Beijing in 2008 where he finished seventh in the individual pursuit. In 2010, Phinney won the under 23 individual time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Geelong – a performance that would have gone a long way in the selector's minds – along with the recent Giro d'Italia. Racing at elite level at last year's world championships in Copenhagen, Phinney finished 15th, while Zabriskie didn't compete.
"Dave has been a time trialling idol of mine since I started this sport," Phinney stated. "He's been around; he's been a very good time triallist for a very, very long time. So if they [the selectors] had chosen him I would have fully respected that and definitely understood because of his pedigree. They did it, they chose me and I'm happy to take that burden and that responsibility and see what comes of it."
Phinney is yet to do any reconnaissance over either the road race or the time trial course, relying only on Google Maps but he believes that with the right preparation, he can zero in on a result.
"My confidence and my abilities will grow as the days and the weeks pass by coming up to the Olympics," he explained. "I went into the Giro prologue knowing that I had a very good chance of winning. I knew that I had the physical capacity to win that first stage and I did and that's because that's what I trained for and that's what I prepared for.
"Now that I know that I'm going [to the Olympic Games] I have this time to really focus on my longer time trialling skills and my ability to put out a very large amount of power for a very long amount of time. I'm not going to shoot off from here on June 15th and I'm not going to say that I'm going to go out there and win a gold medal, but I think as we get closer and as my training is ramping up and my confidence is building, that once I get there I have a shot."
When it comes to Tyler Farrar's chances on the 240km road race, Phinney is undecided as to whether it is indeed a sprinter's course. Looking at the race favourite, Great Britain's Mark Cavendish, Phinney noted that it took nine men to keep the Copenhagen world championship race together.
"I think it could be sort of either way," he told Cyclingnews. "I don't think the circuit is as hard as Geelong, I think it's easier than that but at the same time with five-man teams that changes a lot... Also we don't even have radios, do we? There's a lot of different variables... it will be difficult to race that's for sure."
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