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After surviving nearly three weeks of racing, the EF-Drapac star hit a divot in the road or perhaps a pothole on the Col de Aubisque. The bump knocked his hands off his handlebars. The momentum pushed him one way, gravity another. In a split second, he was off the road and slammed into a tree.
Less than 24 hours later, Saturday’s final time trial was more reminder that nothing comes easy in the Tour.
“There was a moment when I was down there — you gotta be kidding me, I made it this far,” Phinney said. “The Tour de France makes you earn it. Getting to Paris, you’ve gotta earn it – I feel like I earned it.”
With his face purple and blue from the impact, the EF-Drapac star was relieved to make it to the finish line of the Tour’s penultimate stage in Saturday’s time trial. After avoiding serious injury the day before, he was one day closer to Paris.
“I was just riding to the finish line, really,” Phinney said. “My body is battered and bruised and I was just trying to get it over with. It was a brutal course.”
Sunday’s finish line will mean even more to Phinney, who battled back from injury to complete his first Tour last year.
In 2018, Education First-Drapac came to the Tour prepared to fight for the yellow jersey. Things began to unravel on the first day when Lawson Craddock crashed heavily in the feed zone. Team captain Rigoberto Urán crashed in stage 9 and abandoned a few days later. The remainder of the Tour turned into breakaway attempts and riding on pride.
Phinney, 28, even returned to his sprinting roots and notched two top-10s in bunch sprints.
Friday’s last mountain stage was meant to be one final hard day in the mountains before a final dash down the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
A bump or whatever it was knocked Phinney off his line. He crashed off course and into a tree. Luckily, he avoided more serious injury, but he still broke his nose and fractured a bone in his face. The bruises Saturday were souvenirs of the damage.
“Fortunately I wasn’t feeling any concussion symptoms, and that was the main concern,” he said. “Luckily I just had this TT today and I’m excited to get to Paris and excited to rest.”
The Tour has one more twist. Due to his injury, he won’t be allowed to fly to Paris on Sunday morning with the rest of the peloton. Instead, he will travel inside the team bus for the long seven-hour trip.
“The bulk of the pain is over now,” Phinney said. “Those laps on the Champs are going to be harder than I want them to be. Hopefully, I am going to cross that finish line, I will be very happy.”
Nothing comes cheap in the Tour, but the rewards are even greater.