LARUNS, France (VN) — Taylor Phinney is working on sprinting in the last days of the Tour de France — for fun and more importantly for experience.
The American put his hand up when the EF Education First-Drapac team met following Rigoberto Urán’s abandon. He wanted a chance. His team was racing for the overall but had to adjust its plans after injuries forced the Colombian out. Phinney had an answer.
“It’s seizing the opportunity, recognizing there’s a diminished sprinters peloton. They are tired, and sprinting in the second and third week is different than in the first week,” Phinney said.
“It’s more fun to be in the race at the front end when every day in the mountains you are getting demolished and trying to make the time cut.
“I’m open to learning. When I was younger, I expected if I was in front I had to get a result, now I see that there’s a lot I can learn. If I learn, then I can pump out a result here and there and especially in the later stages of a grand tour.”
He has inadvertently been following in his father’s footsteps. Davis Phinney sprinted twice to stage wins in the Tour de France in the 1980s racing for 7-Eleven.
Taylor’s huge body and motor helped him in the classics and time trials. But with some extra experience, he can apply his natural gifts to big gallops in stage races. What he learns, too, he can take it to the spring classics.
“If the sprinters are being time-cut, that just increases your odds. It’s all about positioning and having that last little ingredient in the final 200 meters,” added Phinney.
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“I look up to Jean-Pierre Drucker, who won a stage of the Vuelta a España last year. He’s similar, not contesting bunch sprints all year, but he won a bunch kick in the Vuelta. That’s more my style, be one of those guys who can get over the mountains.
“You have to be able to sprint to win a bike race now unless you can just leave everyone behind and go solo, which on paper would be a forte for me, but realistically at the end of a classic, you’ll have a couple of guys with you. You need that kind of speed. And the positioning, that’s just what the classics are about.”
So far in the race, many top sprinters have abandoned or been time-cut, including Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors), Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin), André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data).
Others like Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and stage 18 winner Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) remain.
Phinney wants to face them again. He is hauling his big six-foot-six frame over the Tourmalet and Aubisque Friday to complete the last mountain stage of the Tour. After Saturday’s time trial, he will have a chance on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
“You tell me how to win on the Champs-Élysées! I’ve only been there once, but it’s in my mind,” added Phinney. “I’d love to be a part of that sprint. It’s easier said than done.”