Taylor Phinney (BMC) relied on a little bit of his cycling pedigree Monday in Steamboat Springs to win stage 1 at the USA Pro Challenge, his first victory since returning to competition after severely injuring his leg more than 14 months ago.
Phinney was dropped over the final climb on the last of two circuits around the small mountain town, but he joined forces with Cannondale-Garmin's Ruben Zepuntke and UnitedHealthcare's Tanner Putt to make it back to the reduced group. Phinney called the result a "Davis Phinney Special," referring to his father's ability to claw his way back to the group after climbs and then take the sprint win.
Phinney said the initial BMC plan was not to drive the pace too hard over the climb, but like most plans in bike races, it changed as the race wore on.
"Because nobody had started to help us; Cannondale pulled their riders from pulling, and Trek wasn't going to pull, Saxo wasn't going to pull, and I think it sort of turned into a little bit of an of an ego thing within the teams," he said. "And then the guys started going, and I was sitting on the wheels going, ‘This is really hard. I don't enjoying this. I though we weren't going to do this.'"
Phinney persevered and made it back, however, and then with his teammate Rohan Dennis up the road he was able to slide in behind the UnitedHealthcare lead out train and wait for his moment.
"I knew I didn't have the pop still to beat some of the best bunch sprinters in the group, so I just thought I'd go early," he said. "But I didn't think I was going to be able to win until maybe 100 metres to go.
"I had a slight moment of panic because I thought I was going to lose it, but I just put my head down and I spent a lot of time and a lot of energy pushing through those last eight or nine seconds. I had a few moments to think about putting my hands up in the air, and it was everything that I thought it would be."
Phinney now leads Reijnen in the general classification, with Bookwalter third. There are no time bonuses in the race, so the top 42 riders all have the same time. Phinney will have a lot of competition for the yellow jersey during stage 2, which features the climb over Rabbit Ears Pass at nearly 2,900 metres, Ute Pass at over 2,900 metres and the summit finish at Arapahoe Basin, which is at nearly 3,300 metres.
"I am not a climber," he said. "I can survive some climbs, but a mountain top finish is not my cup o' tea. So our plan is going to be to focus more on the GC guys coming into the race.
"I'll just kind of prance around in yellow for a couple of hours. It's going to be a difficult prance, but that's how this race is and that's why we love it here."
When reminded that the last time a Phinney wore yellow in Colorado occurred more than 27 years ago, when his Father, Davis, led the Coors Classic, the younger Phinney had a succinct response.
"The Davis Phinney special," he said.
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