Taylor Phinney says that helping BMC Racing to their third consecutive team time trial world title would be a cherry on the top of his time with the team. Phinney is set to move to Cannondale-Drapac next season, and with just the Japan Cup to come, he will ride for the last time in a major competition in the red of BMC Racing on Sunday.
"It would be great. No matter where I’m racing I want to win, and I’ve built a really special bond with this group of guys," Phinney said the evening before the event. "I’m looking forward to racing with them no matter what, and the friendships and the bonds that I’ve made will continue and there’s no reason will change any of that. It would be a lovely cherry on top of my time at BMC."
Phinney admits to spending some time reflecting on his last six seasons with the team, but he is sure that it won’t distract him from the task at hand.
"I’ve had a couple of moments of nostalgia in the last couple of weeks, but before the race, I think that I will be pretty focussed on the race. Maybe afterwards, when we’re all sufficiently intoxicated, we might get a little nostalgic with each other."
The build-up to this year’s team time trial has been plagued by the disagreement between the UCI and the AIGCP, the latter of which threatened a WorldTour team boycott of the event unless certain requirements were met. Last month, after a month of discussions, the UCI agreed to change the regulations which made it compulsory for all WorldTour teams. In addition, no WorldTour points will be awarded.
The victims in the disagreement were the riders who were left in limbo as to whether or not their hard work would go to waste. The uncertainty didn’t disrupt their preparation for the event. "We prepared as if it was going to happen, no matter what. We didn’t know if we were going to come just a couple of weeks ago," Phinney explained.
"We’re bike riders; we want to race, especially us. We want to come here and win. We won last year, and the guys won the year before that, and we want to come here and look all the other teams in the face and beat them, and we want to have a party afterwards."
Both the men’s and women’s team time trials will run over the same 40-kilometre course, which begins in the Lusail Sports Complex to the north of the city and finishes on the twisting roads of the Pearl. Most of the route lends itself to the power riders, but it is bookended by some challenging sections. The start, which snakes around the roads of the Lusail complex, will be particularly difficult to navigate.
“It’s technical to start; it’s kind of a strange course with a couple of U-turns. I wouldn’t call the course glamourous or any beautiful showcase of the city of Doha," said Phinney.
"We have to stay together, with the technical beginning it’s going to be easy to start out hard and take some of the corners too fast and cause some difficulties in the group in the beginning before you get to the real powerful section on the way back into town. It’s just staying conservative and racing smart, but we’ve practiced so much that we shouldn’t have any problems. It was good that we came so early because we’ve been doing that beginning circuit every day, except for yesterday."
After the team time trial, Phinney will be back in the stars and stripes of team USA, where he looks to put the disappointment of the Olympic Games behind him with a strong performance in the individual time trial. Initially, Phinney was reluctant to put a number on his ambitions but, when pushed, he tipped a top five finish as his goal. Phinney has achieved that before with a silver medal at the 2012 World Championships in Valkenburg and fifth place in the 2013, but less than a year later he was on the sidelines after a horrific accident during the US national championships.
"I’m quietly confident for the race on Wednesday, but the Worlds week is always a weird one to prepare for because you come here with your trade team and you prepare for the team time trial, and it’s all in for Sunday, and you can’t really think about Wednesday or the following Sunday otherwise it can weigh on your mind," he said.
"It’s going to be hot. It’s shorter, which I’m excited about. It’s not going to be an hour long, and it’s just going to be about 45 minutes. Hopefully, there’s a tailwind to cap it off. It’s a good power course, so it’s good for a rider of my size. I’m taking it one day at a time. Being an Olympic year, I prepared so much for that, even though, result-wise, it didn’t go the way that I wanted. Since then, I’ve been having fun, exploring and playing around in the races and chasing the fire."