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Phinney enters European phase with winning mentality

After winning gold and bronze at the Track World Championships in Copenhagen last month, Taylor Phinney is hoping to transfer his good form onto the road in a series of under-23 races in northern Europe.

The American is bunking up at USA Cycling’s U23 base in Izegem, Belgium for the next three weeks and will be racing in the U23 Tour of Flanders and a series of Nations Cup events, but unlike last year, when Phinney was new to the events, he’ll be entering with a more aggressive, winning mentality.

"I have a three day race this weekend in northern France," Phinney said. "I got top ten overall last year which was good for me as it was my first U23 race but I’m going there to win the time trial this year."

"When I came here last year I was just coming for experience and I thought I was going to get my butt whipped, but it wasn’t that bad so I’m aiming at winning races this time. I think I have a chance and it’s about going in now with a winning focus and not just an experience focus."

Phinney prepared for the Worlds on tracks in California and then Italy, meaning he’s missing valuable road miles in his legs. His training has been based around short but intense efforts as opposed to long endurance based work outs but he’s isn’t fazed, having ridden a similar programme last year.

"We’ll see how it goes. It’s definitely difficult from going from two hour days when it’s high intense work to steady four or five hour riders. I didn’t have much of a problem last year but the weather isn’t’ going to be great and that’s a little different to riding on the inside of a wooden velodrome."

Going pro in 2011

With his race season planned out for the spring Phinney already has one eye on 2011 when he aims to turn professional with Lance Armstrong’s RadioShack team. According to Phinney he had the chance to go pro at a younger age when he was still part of Garmin’s youth development programme. However he turned the offer down, instead remaining at U23 level.

"I could have gone pro after my junior year but I didn’t have as many race days in my legs. The plan is to go pro next year, but you never know. Back when I was with Garmin they gave me the option. When [Jonathan] Vaughters found out about Lance wanting me he offered me a pro contract, but that wasn’t what I was looking for and it would have been a bad decision. I’d raced just nine days that year."

Phinney is under option with the team for next season and Radioshack and Armstrong have right of first refusal on Phinney’s professional road future. Several riders have already moved from the Trek Livestrong outfit to Radioshack this winter. "So unless some kind of better option comes along they have the first option of refusal but that means no matter what anyone offers, if RadioShack match it then I’ll go with them."

Could Phinney and Armstrong ride for the same team next year? It’s a possibility according to Phinney who said the seven-time Tour winner could carry on for another year.

"Last time I talked to him he said he’d do another year if he won the Tour. That was a couple of months ago but you never know with him. Honestly if it was me and I was his age and I’d already won and the Tour seven times and I won it again I'd be like 'okay, peace out' but he’s a different animal."

However no matter which direction Phinney takes on the road, he’ll always have a soft spot for the track. It’s where he made his name and shot to stardom in the US, making their Olympic team in 2008 and securing two world championship jerseys since. There’s unfinished business too with the individual pursuit world record still a huge aspiration.

"It’s something I think I can do in my lifetime and I’ve put so much work into being a pursuiter and I’ve won two world titles that the next level is to go for the standard position record and then the all time record. But if I have to leave track and then come back that’s fine - I want to put my name down in the record books as being one of the best all time pursuiters."

Should Phinney balance his track and road plans the obvious question is whether he’d tackle the hour record later in his career. He’s not ruling it out.

"The hour record would take more endurance which would come with more years on the bike, so if I looked at that it would be in a few years. I can hold that power for five minutes right now but mentally holding that power for an hour. I’m too young to torture myself like that."

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