Taylor Phinney came into the UCI Road World Championships as an unknown quantity, having only recently come back from a nearly career-ending leg injury, but on Wednesday he achieved his number one goal, to qualify the USA for the 2016 Olympic Games time trial in Rio.
Phinney finished 12th in the elite men's time trial in Richmond, missing out on the top 10 riders by a slim five seconds. However, there were two Polish riders and two Italians in the top 10, and the rules for qualification shift the spot to the next not yet qualified nation. After 14 months out of competition, his 23 days of racing since his rushed return at Tour of Utah were not ideal preparation, but Phinney was relieved to do his job.
"I've been pretty stressed out about this race today," Phinney admitted after the time trial. Tejay van Garderen was supposed to be the one with the job of qualifying the country, but after he broke his arm and foot in a crash in the Vuelta a Espana, Phinney stepped up to take his place. "It was a little premature, and I wasn't sure how I was going to do, but I didn't feel like anyone else could take that responsibility. So I put it on myself. I did what I could over the last couple of months to get ready.
"My goal today was to try to make it into the Olympics next year with a top 10 nation placing. So that's definitely a big relief. I wish I was at 100 percent so I could have put better show on for everybody. I can't say I had a great time out there, but I was pushing the power I wanted to push."
Phinney won the gold medal with his BMC squad in the team time trial, and will compete again on Sunday in the road race, but said there hasn't been any decision on the tactics yet.
"I haven't thought about the road race much, and this time trial has been weighing on my mind for the last few weeks. The road race is so long, it's something you just roll into and you don't have to be all guns blazing from the start like in a time trial. The rest of the team arrives tonight, and it will be good to spend some time with my friends and we will formulate our plan of attack [for the road race]."