Giro Notebook, Stage 3: Phinney winning Italian fans; longest transfer

Race leader Taylor Phinney is winning fans in the Italian media and public with his fluent language skills and coolness under pressure

HORSENS, Denmark (VN) – Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) is charming the Giro d’Italia press corps with the interviews he’s giving in fluent Italian.

Despite Monday’s brutal crash, Phinney explained on live television to Italian journalists at the scene what happened.

“I feel OK. I think I will be able to start Wednesday,” Phinney explained in Italian. “We will see, my foot and ankle hurt, but I am happy that nothing is broken.”

It’s that grace under fire that’s winning him legions of new fans in Italy.

The 21-year-old Phinney has deep roots with Italy, living there as a teenager in 2002-2004 and moving to Lucca when he turned pro in 2011.

“Italy is a special country for me,” Phinney said. “I lived there as a kid and I learned Italian, went to school there and learned about the culture. That’s why I chose to live there when I turned pro. I love it.”

Phinney’s mother, Olympic champion Connie Carpenter, explained that when the family lived in Marostica in the 2000s, Phinney was not interested in cycling.

Carpenter – who has been christened as “Mamma Connie” by the Italian media – is also impressing the Giro media with her equally fluent Italian.

“His sport then was soccer,” Carpenter said on RAI TV. “He played for the local team and didn’t become interested in cycling until later. At first, I did not want him to be a cyclist because I know how hard it can be.”

Phinney said Italy fits him like a glove, something that is helping him make the transition into the European peloton.

Many U.S. pros have a tough time fitting into European culture, something that is even more difficult in Italy, where the sometimes-chaotic culture and mind-numbing bureaucracy can drive anyone crazy.

Over the past decade of so, dozens of American and other non-European pros have settled into Girona, Spain, about an hour north of Barcelona in Spain’s Catalunya region.

Riders such as Christian Vande Velde and George Hincapie moved there in the mid-1990s and Lance Armstrong bought an apartment in the historic center after his comeback.

When he turned pro last year, Phinney chose to live in Lucca.

The mid-sized city in Italy’s Tuscany region is becoming a second European hub for Americans, home to such U.S. pros as Tejay van Garderen and Ben and Ted King (no relation). USA Cycling also has a development house used by the U23 and women’s teams.

Phinney said the presence of BMC Racing assistant sport director Max Sciandri, who lives in nearby Quaranta, has played a critical role in his success in Europe.

“Max is like my Italian father,” Phinney said. “I speak with him daily. I hang out with him. He’s a great friend of mine, someone who really believes in me. He gives me motivation to do what I can do.”

Phinney’s close ties to Italy are paying dividends in his transition into the pro ranks. Not only can he dazzle the Italian media, he can speak with his Italian teammates and communicate within the peloton.

Phinney is youngest pink jersey in 30 years

Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) defended the leader’s jersey Monday despite the drama of a late crash.

With victory in Saturday’s opening time trial, Phinney became the youngest pink jersey in 30 years. The American’s age is 21 years and 313 days, the youngest since Laurent Fignon took pink in 1982 when he was 21 years and 276 days.

Longest transfer in Giro history

Riders and only four staff members per team were scheduled to fly Monday night from Denmark to Verona, Italy, in what is the Giro’s longest transfer in race history.

For the remainder of the team staff, the 1500km drive will make Tuesday’s rest day anything but restful.

The long-distance transfers that come with far-flung starts to grand tours could become a thing of the past, however.

The UCI has introduced new rules stating that the start of a grand tour must take place at least five stages before the first rest day. That could put the chill on race organizers taking grand tours beyond the scope of Europe.

Race Notes

Stage winner: Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) wins for the first time in 2012
Pink leader: Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) crashed in final sprint and was transported away in an ambulance, but later returned to the finish line to participate in the podium ceremony
Red points: Goss takes over the points jersey from Mark Cavendish (Sky), who crashed in the final sprint
Blue climbers: Alfredo Balloni (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) retained the jersey after riding into the day’s main breakaway and earning points at the Cat. 4 climb at 103.8km
White young: Phinney

Weather: Italian sun
The peloton flies to Italy on Monday night while the rest of the entourage makes the long drive to Verona. Forecasters are calling for temperatures in the low 70s F and mostly sunny skies for Wednesday’s team time trial.

Next stage: TTT showdown
After Tuesday’s rest day, the 95th Giro clicks back into gear Wednesday with a 33.2km team time trial in Verona, Italy. The rolling course features no major climbs and will favor specialist teams. Garmin-Barracuda, Sky, Orica-GreenEdge and BMC Racing will be the favorites for victory.