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Phinney: I definitely have an appreciation for how hard it is just to finish Paris-Roubaix

Upon finishing Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, BMC’s Taylor Phinney said that he has a new appreciation for how difficult it is just to finish such a tough event. The American finished 49th, just over 14 minutes behind the day’s winner, Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEdge), but he said finishing the race was one more building block in his road to recovery.

“I definitely have more of an appreciation for how hard it is just to finish this race,” Phinney said at the finish line in the velodrome.

Phinney hasn’t raced Paris-Roubaix since 2014, after which he was involved in a career-threatening crash that injured his leg and took him out of competition for over a year. He also wasn’t a sure start for this year’s event but was added to the BMC roster because of his strong performances at Gent-Wevelgem and Tour of Flanders.

He compared Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix performance to the one he did two years ago and then gave some insight into how he sees himself developing over the next 12 months.

“I was able to handle the positioning better in the first half of this race than I was a couple of years ago, and also able to fight and take some risks, which was something I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do or not. I didn’t know if I’d be scared or skittish so, yeah, it feels like a positive building day as I go forward.

“These races are pretty wild, all the Classics were really hard this year from the start.”

Phinney fractured his left leg in a high-speed crash on a descent at US national championships in May 2014. After a long recovery process, he started racing again last summer at the Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Challenge. He had a solid spring of racing at Haut Var-martin, La Provence, Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico, before embarking on the Spring Classic.

Asked how his body has reacted to the full spring calendar, and particularly the Classics and the jarring Paris-Roubaix, Phinney said “It felt alright, I was feeling pretty good going into the sectors in the red place until after Arenberg."

“I felt like the lights went out a little bit, maybe I wasn’t able to eat as much as I wanted to in the beginning but I definitely felt the left side starting to shut down and it took a while for that to kind of come back, but by then I was already off of the back and I was just in the groups behind, just trying to make it to the finish basically.”

Phinney sat in the infield at the velodrome following Paris-Roubaix to speak with reporters after the race. If he felt any disappointment over finishing more than 14 minutes back, he didn’t show it, and said that the effort, however painful, felt good.

“It feels pretty good,” Phinney laughed. “I’m pretty happy to be done with the race. It’s just such a brutal… I don’t know if I was more naïve when I was younger, before the crash, but I definitely felt like it was a lot heavier an effort than years prior. But I've still got some more to do.

“I guess I could be… I’m happy that I made it here, I’m happy that I didn’t have any problems, I didn’t crash and now looking forward to going back home and getting in the gym and look forward to racing in the US and racing the Tour of California.”

Before this year’s Paris-Roubaix, retired George Hinacpie tipped Phinney as a future winner of the Classic. Asked after the race if he felt like he could win it one day, Phinney said, “Yeah, I don’t know."

“I hope so, but it’s gonna take a little while.”

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