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No firm comeback date yet for Taylor Phinney

Rehab from 2014 crash is taking longer than expected for Taylor Phinney, and he's not expected to race the spring classics

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DENIA, Spain (VN) — The comeback trail for Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) is longer and more complicated than expected. The BMC Racing star admitted Wednesday it’s still too early to talk about a firm date to return to racing.

The 24-year-old is champing at the bit to get back in the races, but recovery and rehabilitation from his devastating crash at the USA Cycling road nationalchampionships last summer is forcing Phinney to be more patient than he’d like to be.

“I need a few more months of general strengthening to get to where I am pain-free,” Phinney said. “I need the leg to get back to 90-, 95-percent strength before I can start talking about other things.”

Phinney admitted that any hope of racing the spring classics is unrealistic, but he is holding out hope he could be “race fit” in time for the Amgen Tour of California in May. He’s driven to be back in condition to challenge for the world time trial championship on home soil in Richmond, Virginia, in September, but even he admits the first step is resuming training full-time.

“I cannot get too carried away thinking about racing just yet,” he said. “My knee gets swollen after a too-long ride, or too much time in the gym. When we were talking about things a few months ago, we thought maybe returning to the Dubai Tour [Phinney won in 2014] in February, but things are obviously taking longer than we had hoped for. It’s been a long process.”

In May, Phinney suffered a devastating accident during the U.S. nationals resulting in a complicated fracture in his left leg. After undergoing surgeries, Phinney continues through the painful and arduous rehab process.

Phinney joked about his atrophied leg, which he calls “Froomey,” when compared to his healthy leg, which he’s dubbed “Greipel,” after skinny GC rider Chris Froome and stocky sprinter André Greipel.

“There is a four-centimeter difference in girth between ‘Froomey’ and ‘Greipey,’ but the doctors say I am recovering well. And we’re doing it in a healthy and sustainable way. They said if I rushed it, I could suffer arthritis when I am in my 30s,” he said. “There is always a concern I might not get back to the same level I was. Some even suggested that I return to college. It’s not been easy, but things are going pretty well.”

Sporting manager Allan Peiper confirmed it’s simply too early to talk about firm dates.

“We have to play it by the moment, and see how he recuperates, how the rehab goes, how his power numbers are,” Peiper said. “It’s going to take some time.”

Peiper said it was important for Phinney to join his teammates here in Spain. Even though Phinney is still unable to go on the long, intense training rides, he can join the squad with other activities; something that Peiper said is vital to Phinney’s morale and recovery.

“He’s been to war and back. He’s a different kid. He’s been through some rough stuff,” Peiper said. “I can see how hard it’s been for him. There is a sparkle that is missing in his eye. After going through what he’s been through, the accident, the surgery, the rehab, the physio, and then to have it in limbo, you have to doubt, ‘can I ever do what I wanted to do?’

“I asked him the other day what his goals were for the season, and he said, ‘My first goal would be to start the Tour of California, and then make the Tour de France,’’” Peiper continued. “They’re long shots, but it’s important to have a focus. He’s the American GI Joe. If anyone can do it, he can.”