Taylor Phinney in a nail biting finish won the Greenville Hospital Systems professional time trial championships by .14 of a second. Held under beautiful conditions and with a breeze that increased as the day wore on, Phinney beat 14 other riders including a rider who has won a time trial in the Tour de France, RadioShack’s Levi Leipheimer.
However it was Jelly Belly’s Carter Jones that was in the hot seat for most of the day withstanding last year’s third place finisher Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefits). Jones’ teammate Bernard Van Ulden eclipsed his time by two seconds but the big guns of the day were on course and tearing up the road. One favorite who was literally torn up by the road was Garmin-Transitions Peter Stetina. He hit a bump and came off the aero-bars suffering cuts and bruises. The injuries were too much for him to continue and retired.
While Stetina was recovering, Phinney set the record for the fastest first lap time split. As Phinney roared through the finish line with his team SUV following behind, his spare bike clamped to the roof rack, hit and tore down a hanging sign from the finish line scaffolding. It was quite a sight to see the sign hanging off the spare bike as the SUV continued along the course.
The other five-star favorite Leipheimer was 15 seconds slower on the first time split. Known as a slow starter in time trials this was not surprising – but had he started off to slow?
When Phinney crossed through for the second time split it was obvious that either Phinney or Leipheimer who was going to be the next national time trial champion. Phinney’s time continued to be unbeatable but Leipheimer clawed back more time on his young rival and was trailing by eight seconds.
Unofficial time splits were being announced and Leipheimer appeared to have brought back all the time he lost to Phinney. The crowd went wild as he crossed the line but Leipheimer just fell short of beating Phinney.
Phinney was excited, taking a victory lap and soaking in the applause from the crowd. On the podium the 20-year old conintued to smile and ham it up in front of the adoring crowd.
In the post-race press conference Phinney said he was unsure of who had won.
“When I saw him coming I was pretty sure I didn’t do enough. It was one of the longest 20 seconds of waiting in my life.”
Phinney continued to pay homage to his older rival by calling him a “legend”.
Leipheimer was understandably disappointed in the results, saying that he was very motivated to win, but was no even more motivated for tomorrow’s road race.
“No way I’m going to make an excuse,” said Leipheimer at the post-race press conference. “Taylor was the biggest competitor here and everyone knew it. Taylor is used to starting fast. My advantage is the length, the experience, the pacing; those are the things I’ve got on my side. I tried to save a little for the end but I guess it wasn’t enough.”
“You can count a hundred places where I lost .14 of a second”, said Leipheimer, “It will take some time to get over the disappointment but sometimes it’s good to have a stinging defeat like that. It re-motivates. I guess I’m just looking on the bright side.”
Carolina Cycling News asked Phinney after the press conference if there would be a celebration tonight he replied, “Not until after Australia (location of Time Trial World Championships).”
Whatever team is fortunate to secure Phinney’s signature for 2011 and beyond better be prepared to add another “0” to the end of any financial agreement between them.