"I dream. Sometimes I think that's the only right thing to do," wrote Hakuri Murakami in his novel 'Sputnik Sweetheart'. Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac) has been reading the Japanese writer's works, but even he couldn't have dreamed that he would be wearing the Tour de France's polka-dot jersey.
Phinney is only now making his Tour de France debut. He was due to achieve that ambition in 2014 but spent more than a year trying to salvage his career after a horrific crash at the US national championships earlier that season. Phinney is still, ultimately, dealing with the fallout from that crash, and making the Tour de France start was a victory within itself. The 27-year-old explained his day in the only way he knows how.
"It felt like a dream, to be honest, out there. I've been reading a lot of Murakami so maybe that's why it felt like a dream," Phinney told the press of his day. "Still, just starting and having the first breakaway and being part of that and realising that I was then going to be able to sprint for this jersey, a jersey that I never in a million years pictured myself wearing. Then winning that first one and thinking, well I won that, let's just keep riding 195k of this race.
"The peloton never really gave us any leash, and I thought that they were going to catch us even before the first KOM. They didn't, they had a little crash, I won the KOM and then I got this jersey and then it just turned into this, 'Oh wait, maybe we can win the stage.' I've raced with Yohan Offredo for a long time and I've always been friendly with him, and he was definitely the strongest dude in the breakaway; we both were. We found ourselves together and I turned to him and said, 'Finalment, let's do this.'
"I think with five kilometres to go we really started to believe, but it hurt a lot and then we got passed. When we crossed the finish line, I put my arm around him and said, 'We're friends for life now, bro.'"
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Taking the polka-dot jersey was a plan that had come to directeur sportif Charly Wegelius after watching Phinney ride to 12th in the opening time trial. His timing could have been better, but Phinney was up for the idea.
"I did the time trial, I took a shower in my hotel room and then I walked out of my bathroom and I was completely naked, in my room, and Charly Wegelius our team director came into my room," Phinney recalled. "I was just standing there completely naked and he started talking about what he wanted to do on this stage today. I was half, 'Yo, bro, I'm naked', but also, 'I'm listening.'
"He wanted to go for this jersey. I had thought about that a little bit but I hadn't put any clothes on so I was trying to figure out which boxers I was going to put on first. Then we had the team meeting this morning and that was the plan."
Phinney will have to go in the breakaway again on stage 3 if he wants to keep the jersey with seven points available over four climbs. If he chooses to defend it he would keep it until stage 5, when the race heads into the Vosges mountains.
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