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Giro d'Italia

Phinney’s love, the pink jersey, slips away

Italian-based American can’t think about what might have been after losing his grasp on the maglia rosa in Verona

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VERONA, Italy (VN) — In the city of forbidden love, young American Taylor Phinney saw his heart broken Wednesday. His Giro d’Italia dream ended as fast as it started, in 33.2 short kilometers around Verona’s suburbs, his pink jersey, his schoolboy crush, slipped away.

In Piazza Bra, at the conclusion of the Giro’s fourth leg, Phinney and his BMC mates arrived in 37 minutes and 35 seconds. He didn’t feel well, he thought he’d dragged down the team and couldn’t care less about the beauty that surrounded him, the Roman Arena above, the girls at the cafes. His lead was lost, the pink jersey had slipped away to Garmin-Barracuda’s Ramunas Navardauskas.

“I was very honored to wear this jersey for the days I had it,” he told VeloNews, slumped on the stairs of the team bus. “I was happy to bring it back to Italy, but sorry to lose it here in Verona.”

Some 1500 kilometers away in Denmark, Phinney lived up to the heavy expectations that were put on him. He went into the race’s opening time trial as the favorite and left as the winner. He knocked Geraint Thomas (Sky) out of the lead by nine seconds to take what he called his schoolboy crush, the pink jersey.

What more did the Italian and Danish Tifosi expect? Phinney grew up speaking the cycling language thanks to mom and dad, Connie and Davis. Connie won the 1984 Olympic road race and Davis scored the first stage for the U.S. in the Tour de France.

The younger Phinney proved just as powerful, earning world titles in the team pursuit on the track and in the under-23 time trial on the road. Add those to the back-to-back Paris-Roubaix Espoirs, and you have the makings of a champion.

He fought like a champion in the Giro d’Italia’s opening stages. Phinney motored back after he crashed in the final kilometers of stage 2 and returned to pump his fists on the podium after tumbling 250 meters out in stage 3. That crash, though, sprained his ankle and forced him to spend several hours in the hospital on returning to Italy on Monday night.

Phinney, as he showed in Herning, is an excellent time trialist. Surely, had it not been for Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela), who caused the crash on Monday, Phinney would’ve helped BMC storm into the city of teenage love and saved his pink top.

“Whooo… I mean, I… Ah… I don’t know,” said Phinney. “There’s speculation as to whether or not I was too far in front the other day. I thought to be in the top 20 I’d be all right in the last K.

“Sure, if I went into this without the ordeal of the last few days, it would’ve been a whole lot better and I probably could’ve held on to it. I completely dragged down the team… I don’t have anyone to blame for the crash, that’s just the way cycling goes.”

His three-day spell in the jersey, the brief love affair and never-say-die attitude today, only strengthened the BMC team. He said that now he’ll return the favors for teammates Thor Hushovd and Marco Pinotti as they chase stage wins and the general classification.