LLORET DE MAR, Spain (VN) – Taylor Phinney (BMC) made it through his European season debut in a tough stage at the Volta a Catalunya (Tour of Catalonia) that saw him dropped on the second of two first-category climbs.
Phinney rolled over the first one in good position, but came unglued on the second climb as the pack ramped up the chase to reel in a dangerous three-man breakaway that had opened up a 15-minute lead.
Phinney rolled across the line 179th at 14:14 back, hardly the kind of debut he’d like to have, but the 20-year-old was satisfied to get the ride under his belt.
“It was definitely a hard day. It’s a different level being at the WorldTour and very different from the under-23 races I’ve done and even the Tour of Oman. It was a hard, hilly stage, a lot of big hitters here and I got dropped. It’s a fitting WorldTour debut, because I can only go up from here, so that’s perfect,” Phinney said after the stage.
“It always sucks to get dropped, but I was happy that I made it over the first climb. I had a couple of aches and pains along the way just getting into the rhythm of really racing hard. It was fun to ride for Cadel for the time I was there and have the whole team around him. It’s never fun to get dropped; you can only go forward from here.”
Phinney came to Catalunya with just the Tour of Oman in his legs so far this season. His racing schedule was delayed due to a minor knee problem in January and then a training spill in February, but he’s still optimistic he can be ready for a run at the spring classics next month.
“This week is going to be suffer-fest for me. I’ve been able to train well, but I had so many setbacks in the beginning of the year, this will be a true test for me. It’s such a hard race,” Phinney continued. “Hopefully I can push through and I can come out stronger, better and faster, and hopefully I can be in good form for the classics, which are more my style.”
Phinney said he’s looking forward to racing with veterans such as Cadel Evans and Karsten Kroon during the weeklong Catalunya tour, which concludes Sunday in Barcelona.
“We have a great team. Cadel is coming off his win at Tirreno, so we have a big potential to get him up on the podium or up there for a win. You never know, if it comes down to a sprint, I will give it what I can because there’s not a lot of sprinters here,” Phinney said. “I am enjoying the ride so far. It was a hard day today and it will be a hard week, but if it all goes well, it will give me what I need for the classics.”
BMC officials said they will make the call on whether or not Phinney heads to the spring classics after Catalunya.