To say 20 year old Taylor Phinney’s cycling career has been meteoric is just scratching the surface. He’s an Olympian, World Champion, two time winner of U-23 Paris-Roubaix and now he’s being heavily courted by professional teams like the popular high school cheerleader. Two days before the Hospital Systems US Pro Time Trial Championships Carolina Cycling News hung out with the rider who has to carry the burden of being called America’s next great champion. After a re-con of the time trial course and post-training session pizza we talked about the race and what team will have his talents in 2011.
With parents both icons in American cycling it seems only natural that this type of success would come easily for the RadioShack rider.
“Everything came as a surprise. I had no idea that my level of success would have been what it is. I owe it to the people I have been around, the teams I have worked with, the mentors and the organizations I have had.”
The hot topic regarding Phinney is which team will be lucky enough to get his John Hancock on a contract. Internet rumors were buzzing about a four-year contract with BMC. When directly asked that question he was coy, but reading between the lines he seems to have made a decision.
“In the beginning of August when I stagiaire with RadioShack I crashed in the Tour of Denmark and flew home. The plan had always been to stay with RadioShack – we didn’t think twice about it. But once we came home we were approached by a couple of different teams who were offering more longevity and more financial security for three or four years. RadioShack can offer next year – a one year contract, as they don’t yet have a sponsor after 2011. That’s risky for me with the Olympics – it takes a lot to make a track bike that works for me. I don’t want to be looking for teams in 2012 if RadioShack doesn’t re-sign. Security is what was key when we were approached. We never went out and looked for teams. We were always committed to RadioShack, but when the interest started coming in we listened and that’s where we are now. We are figuring it out. It’s been flattering the interest I have gotten from different teams. Wherever I go next year it will be the best fit with me regarding mentorship, and riders that I can connect with.
Consider Phinney has been staying with George Hincapie as he prepares for the US Pro weekend. Phinney has similar aspirations for the Classics as the BMC rider. With Hincapie’s career near an end, wouldn’t he be the perfect rider to mentor and lead Phinney through his first ProTour Classics?
Phinney and RadioShack teammate Levi Leipheimer are considered the favorites for the national time trial champion’s jersey. Is he feeling the pressure?
“Not really. I’m here to race my bike, something I’ve been doing for the past four years. People put pressure on me and I put pressure on myself – that’s the name of the game.”
While he may not be feeling the pressure any more than normal Phinney is aiming for the podium and will settle for nothing less.
“It would be a huge disappointment if I finished outside the top three, but I would go back to the drawing board and see what I did wrong. I have a lot of years in front of me in this sport and I want to achieve as much as I can in this sport, but there’s only so much I can do. Right now I have really good fitness and a good approach to this race which leads to good things. But I don’t know – this is my first (professional) national championships.”
Even if Phinney doesn’t make the top step of the podium this Saturday, it will only be a matter of time.