Taylor Phinney went largely unnoticed at the start of Strade Bianche and the American finished 76th in Siena, in a large final group that also included Filippo Pozzato (Southeast), Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) and Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff). They were 24:15 down on Cancellara and ruled outside the time limit.
For them it was another race, on the way to Tirreno-Adriatico and the Spring Classics. For Phinney, Strade Bianche marked his first race in Italy since his terrible crash during the US national championships in 2014. His last race in Italy had been stage 16 of the 2013 Giro d’Italia, when he did not finish the stage to Ivrea.
A lot has happened in Phinney’s life and career since then. His accident, his injuries and his gradual recovery has left a profound scar on his leg and changed him deeply. He is now 25, more mature and especially appreciative of life outside of cycling. He is determined to make a successful comeback but also wants to enjoy every minute of it. Phinney has learnt to mix long adventure rides with his blocks of training as he strives to enjoy his cycling in every moment.
“It’s definitely different. I don’t know if it’s better or worse for now. I approach bike racing completely different now,” he told Cyclingnews before the day’s racing.
“It’s stressful balancing my own expectations with any outside expectations but I’m learning to manage everything. I raced in France last week, which was pretty intense and a big change from racing in US and a little bit in Britain like I did last year. But I feel good. The team has been supportive in helping me do what I need to do to comeback.”
Phinney has discovered the joy of mixing long adventure rides with his blocks of training as he strives to enjoy his cycling in every moment. He jokingly described Strade Bianche as an adventure ride, with the rest of the peloton coming along as ‘uninvited guests'. But he also points out he loves racing in Italy and especially at Strade Bianche, even if the hilly course leaves him will little chance of ever winning it.
Phinney fought to finish the race, and is set to ride Tirreno-Adriatico next week. However despite Paris-Roubaix still providing some kind of target further down his road, the rest of his season and his goals depend on how he responds and recovers after racing hard. He is still rebuilding his strength, endurance and perhaps his hunger for success.
“I’m winging it at this point. I don’t have any race plans for after Tirreno-Adriatico. We’re taking it one step at a time and we’ll see what happens,” he explains.
“Paris-Roubaix is a goal but the Classics are so intense with big, big efforts needed that it’s hard to say.”
“I had some issues after racing in France last week. I had to fly to Belgium to see a physio to make sure I was getting everything taken care of. But despite that it’s been good to be back racing.”
“It could be a lot more stressful that it has been. I’m taking it one step at time, trying to have fun and have a good time. At this race its easy to get stressed out but it’s also an epic race and so fun just to be here.”