Both Andrew Talansky (Cannondale) and Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) seemed pleased with their efforts over the 20.3km out-and-back course in the Folsom time trial at the Tour of California during stage 6 on Friday, but neither could top Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing).
"Coming into the week I just said I wanted to improve, you know, come out of the week stronger than I came in," Talansky, the runner-up, said at the post-race press conference.
"I've been feeling pretty good the last few days, and today I was pretty pleased with the ride," he said. "If you look back the past couple of years, I always put in good time trials. I've had a little run of time where I haven't been up there in TTs, so it's nice to be back up there between these two giants of people – Taylor more so than Rohan."
The last line was a nod to the humorous tone third-placed Phinney set when answering questions at the outdoor amphitheatre near the finish line in Folsom.
"I was proud of my ride," Phinney said to start off his staccato list of comments. "I definitely suffered out there. I really gave it everything that I had – all of those clichés."
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Phinney was the only rider on the podium who wasn't also fighting for a general classification spot on Friday. He started less than halfway into the day and sat on the hot seat for more than an hour until Talansky knocked him out of the lead.
"Jens [Voigt] brought me a beer when I was on the hot seat, and that made it a little more enjoyable," he said. "But I was just chilling. It was an interesting course to watch, because a lot of guys went a lot faster to the halfway point but then died on the way back. I was really hoping that that was going to happen to Andrew, but it didn't. When I saw him afterwards it looked like he had seen some dark times out there on the road, so I respected him for that."
Talansky' result lifted him from 11th overall to fourth, just 47 seconds behind Etixx-QuickStep's Julian Alaphilippe, while Dennis climbed from seventh to second, just 16 seconds behind the Frenchman.
Dennis could have benefited from having a teammate like Phinney ride the course earlier and set the best time, providing pacing and time split information for his team leader, but Phinney said he and Dennis didn't really talk much about the day after their recon rides.
"I rode the course, Rohan rode the course," he said. "So it's like: Hey it's windy. Yeah, I know. Alright, see you later. That was about it."
Separated by just three seconds, Talansky and Phinney look to be on equal footing as the US time trial championships appear on the horizon later this month. But the reigning champ and 2014 champ likely won't get that chance for another head-to-head duel. Talansky, the 2015 winner, will skip the championships this year, taking a break from his season and flying to Hawaii for a short vacation.
Phinney pointed this out at the press conference when he and Talansky were asked about a potential rematch on May 27.
"I don't know Andrew, are you going to nationals?" he asked Talansky.
"At the moment it's not on my race calendar," Talansky said.
"Andrew's going on vacation," Phinney concluded.
"Yeah, that's exactly what I'm doing," Talansky joked. "I'm flying out to Hawaii."
"So I'm not too worried," Phinney said.