Despite his tender age of 22, Phinney is competing in his second Games, having raced on the track in Beijing four years ago. That experience, in which Phinney missed out on a medal in the individual pursuit, has left the BMC rider hungry for Olympic successes.
"Back then I was a little kid. I was way out of my element in 2008 and I almost got lost in the whole experience even before I'd competed. I came to realise that a lot of people ended up going to the Olympics just for the experience. In a way I forgot that I had to race my bike for four and half minutes. I did okay but it wasn't up to my capabilities but I took it for granted that I might have extra chances at the gold medal," Phinney told Cyclingnews.
In the four years since Beijing, Phinney's career has seen a steady improvement, from track specialist to a one-day, and time trial rider. From signing to the Livestrong team at the tail end of 2008, to BMC for the beginning of 2011, he has picked up two under 23 Paris-Roubaix titles, an under 23 time trial world championship gold and a Giro d'Italia prologue win. However, the Olympics have been a target since last year and since the Giro, Phinney has split his time between the US and his base in Italy as he prepares for the London Games.
"I've come here in probably the best shape I've ever been in. I know going into the road race and the time trial I'm not a hot favourite for either one of them but I am someone who can come out and have a really good result. I've done everything I've needed to do training and nutrition-wise, and I've taken care of myself over the last two months to make sure I've got the best legs possible."
However, in order to succeed in the time trial Phinney will have to beat several of the world's leading time trial specialists. Bradley Wiggins, winner of two time trials at the Tour de France as well as the overall, Chris Froome, Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin all line up as rivals, and Phinney is well aware of the task at hand. But unlike in Beijing four years ago, when competing appeared to be enough, the aspiring rider is keen to stress that medals are all that matters.
"I'm really happy with the way I've approached it and I'm also really confident in my abilities. It's perhaps a different confidence than what I had before the Giro. I went there knowing I could win and that I would win if nothing held me back, whereas here it's different to my specialty in terms of the length of the time trial but I've seen gains in training. I'm going to leave everything out there and I'm not going to leave anything to chance," he told Cyclingnews.
"In my mind you have to go to the Olympics thinking that you can medal so in my mind I've trained like I'm coming here to win an Olympic medal. I'm not sitting here saying I'll win a medal but I've trained in a way, and dedicated myself in way that an Olympic medallist would.
"It's a huge task for sure. To win a medal I'll have to beat Cancellara, Wiggins, Martin or Froome, so it's huge, but I can't come here and say I want to get fifth or top-10because you have to come here and want to medal."
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Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at Cyclingnews.com between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.