Expectations are high for reigning world pursuit and multi-time American champion Taylor Phinney (Trek-Livestrong) to repeat his triple gold medal performance from 2008 in the upcoming US elite national track championships, but the 19-year-old's current health and conditioning are still a question mark. Phinney arrives at the US track nationals on the rebound from illness plus a serious crash at July's Cascade Cycling Classic.
"Coming into nationals I'm not really sure what to expect but I think I can expect enough out of myself to pull out a good result," Phinney told Cyclingnews. "I've been injured and I've been sick for the past couple of months. I've had some base miles for the past couple of weeks and it's finally sort of turning around."
The US elite national track championships take place from September 30 to October 4 in Carson, California. Phinney is planning on doing the three events in which he won gold medals in 2008 plus an additional event to test his track racing mettle. "I'd like to win the team pursuit, kilo and individual pursuit, I'm going in as somewhat of a favourite since I won [those] last year," said Phinney. "The points race is something new for me to do at nationals so we'll see how that goes. I feel pretty strong on the track and I think I can give everyone a run for their money."
While the US track nationals are currently in the forefront of Phinney's thoughts, the recent announcement about the possibility of three endurance events, the individual pursuit, madison and points race, being removed from the 2012 Olympic Games in London is also a matter of concern to the 2008 Olympian. "That definitely came as a shock to me to read about that. At first I didn't really believe it at all because it's hard to believe that they'd take such classic events as the madison and the pursuit out of the Olympics.
"Honestly, I haven't really been feeling well over the past couple of days just because of this new revelation about the Olympics. I feel with my recent success at the Worlds and the times I'm doing that an Olympic gold medal in London is, or was, now, a huge possibility. I feel robbed a little bit, like I've had something stolen from me.
"I can understand why the IOC would want to limit the events and want to make it more exciting. But, when you look at what's happening in the individual pursuit right now, you have three guys who are under the age of 21 and they're all going faster than 4:18. That's me, [Australia's] Jack Bobridge and [New Zealand's] Jesse Sergent. When you have three young guys going really fast and there's still three years until 2012 I just think they would have thought about that and put that in perspective.
If the International Olympic Committee goes through with the plans to remove the individual pursuit, madison and points race, the endurance track riders will compete in an omnium format instead, something which doesn't immediately appeal to Phinney.
"It's somewhat of a tough situation for me to be in. I'll have to change my goals and move on. I'm not super-keen on trying to become an omnium rider but if that what it takes to get to the Olympics I could be a good omnium rider with the kilo and the pursuit. I'm not really sure and I'm in a confused state of mind but we'll find out over the next coming months.
"What I'd like to do for next year is go to the Worlds for the individual pursuit and really give everybody a good show."
The 2010 track world championships take place March 24-28 in Copenhagen, Denmark, a venue which already bore witness to a pair of scorching performances by Phinney in February's UCI Track World Cup in the individual pursuit and kilometre time trial. Phinney may forego this winter's track World Cups in order to return to health and build fitness at home for next year's track Worlds.
"I don't think I'll be doing much racing at all unless I just try to do some cyclo-cross after track nationals. I'm going to take it easy until I get my tonsils out in October which takes about 10 days to recover from. I'll be a little bit out of the game for the next month or so after [track] nationals.
"I'm going to try to get as healthy as I can and fixed back up. In November, December, January and February I'd like to get a really good bloc in so that when I start the road season I can have a full season. I had a successful, but only half [of a] season this year. My big goal next year is to have a full season and a successful full season."
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Based in the southeastern United States, Peter produces race coverage for all disciplines, edits news and writes features. The New Jersey native has 30 years of road racing and cyclo-cross experience, starting in the early 1980s as a Junior in the days of toe clips and leather hairnets. Over the years he's had the good fortune to race throughout the United States and has competed in national championships for both road and 'cross in the Junior and Masters categories. The passion for cycling started young, as before he switched to the road Peter's mission in life was catching big air on his BMX bike.