Taylor Phinney has confirmed that he has signed a two-year deal with Cannondale-Drapac. The 26-year-old American has raced for BMC Racing for the last six seasons but will start a new chapter of his career with Jonathan Vaughters' squad in 2017.
Phinney turned professional in 2011 and won the opening stage at the 2012 Giro d'Italia. In the last two years he has battled back from serious injury after a crash at the 2014 US nationals. He rode strongly at the recent Eneco Tour and is set to ride the team time trial at the World Championships in October. He is also expected to ride the individual time trial while riding for the USA.
Phinney is now 26. He will target the 2017 Classics campaign before looking to cement a spot in the Cannondale-Drapac squad for the Tour de France, where he will have a focus on the individual time trials. However, he also looks at his ambitions on a broader scale, as he looks to develop further as a rider.
"My biggest goals are to grow in the Classics and then I have to get back into Grand Tours," he told Cyclingnews after confirming his new deal.
"I've not done a Grand Tour in four years and those change you. They sculpt your body and your mind like no other race can. I've been feeling a bit behind in that sense. Next year is also about the opening time trial in the Tour de France and working with Cannondale on a new TT bike. They're set to upgrade the current one and I'm excited to be part of that. So the goals are similar but the big picture is about harmonising it all with the races I'm doing, the team, and the equipment that I'm on."
The last few years of Phinney's career have been dominated by a serious accident that took place in 2014 at the US national championships. He broke his left leg in the horrific race accident and a long and painful rehabilitation followed with operations to heal the physical wounds. It has been a long road back for a rider who has experienced so much already in his career. There have been moments of self-doubt, disappointment, success and reflection but he is confident that this new chapter will be the start of a new brighter phase.
"There's been a big change inside my mind in the last few years and that led me to the point where I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep racing my bike anymore because I felt I was able to see the world as this endless opportunity with limitless options and roads to go down," he said.
"But with that came this appreciation of the lifestyle that I currently lead as a professional. I was torn earlier this year because I felt like I was falling in and out of love with cycling at the same time. That lead me to make the decision that I needed to make a change. I wanted to experience a new environment. I was thinking about which teams I wanted to go to and Cannondale has always felt like a family of mine with the Slipstream connection."
A return to his roots
When Phinney made his Olympic Games debut in Beijing in 2008 he was already part of Jonathan Vaughters' junior Slipstream squad. He was already a World and national champion in several disciplines and a move to Trek Livestrong followed before he made his transition to BMC Racing and stepped up to WorldTour level.
While the move to Cannondale-Drapac feels like a return to his roots, Phinney is also ready to embrace the new.
"I got my first job from Jonathan Vaughters when I was 16 and it's already a place where I have developed and grown in the past. They helped me step into the sport and it's cool to have this fresh start mentally but also come back to a team run by the first guy to notice my talent as a young kid. The move to Cannondale Drapac made so much sense. Also my first bike was a blue Cannondale. They do things a little differently with their bikes and I think can sync up with that in the way that I ride and express myself.
"If my career was this big chalkboard I've been trying to erase the whole thing and start from scratch. This summer I've been falling in love with bike racing, how amazing the sport is. I know that sounds funny to many of the people probably reading this because they've been in the industry for a long time but I fell into this sport. I fell into it because of my parents and because I was good at it. I wasn't this huge fan before I started racing. I have this passion for the sport now that is building and I just want to follow that this year."
Thanks to BMC
The move to Cannondale-Drapac brings to a close Phinney's time at BMC Racing. Under the tutelage of Jim Ochowicz the Boulder-based rider has experienced high and lows, yet his grateful for his time on the American-registered team.
“I had a great time at BMC. My whole career until now has been generally overwhelming in a positive sense. I turned pro pretty young and BMC took care of me immediately. At the team everything worked perfectly. It's the most well oiled machine you can imagine. I don't think I really appreciated that until I came back from my accident. I'm really grateful to them for all the work they've done. Since my comeback, at every single race I've done, I've had to have extra support and they've backed me on that. I'm so grateful for that and they stuck by me when I was out for 16 months."
Now it's all about the future: "I'm just excited. I'm happy when I look back, and I'm happy when I look forward. I'm in a good place now."