Max Testa talks about Taylor Phinney’s injuries; Paris-Roubaix start still possible

BMC team doctor Max Testa says Taylor Phinney’s early departure from the Volta a Catalunya last week doesn’t mean that he will not be able to start Paris-Roubaix next month.

BMC team doctor Max Testa says Taylor Phinney’s early departure from the Volta a Catalunya last week doesn’t mean that he will not be able to start Paris-Roubaix next month.

BMC team doctor Max Testa

Phinney pulled out late in Wednesday’s mountain stage, complaining of knee pain. Testa and the BMC staff decided it was better to pull him out rather than risk more serious injury. Testa said there’s still time for Phinney to race Roubaix, one of the early season highlights for the team.

VeloNews caught up with Testa last week at the Volta a Catalunya to get an update on Phinney’s condition. Here’s what he had to say:

VeloNews: Why did Phinney decide to pull out of Catalunya?

Max Testa: First, he developed a pain in the muscle at his knee in January. It wasn’t so serious, so we waited for his first race. Then he did Oman, which was OK, then he had the crash with a concussion in February. He’s been training and doing everything we thought he could do. But coming to a race like this, with this level of racers, everyone is going very fast, it was difficult for him. He’s a big guy. He was already complaining after the first stage of some mild pain of the muscle on the inside of his knee. It was nothing too bad, but (Wednesday) he was complaining again. So we stopped him before the last 30km so he wouldn’t risk an injury. I think it’s a minor problem. The idea why we stopped him (Wednesday) was to give him time to recover for this in what looks like a minor thing before Roubaix.

VN: Do you think it’s still possible he will start the northern classics?

MT: We hope so, that’s what we’re shooting for. It doesn’t look like the injury is too bad. We would like to have him starting Paris-Roubaix, that’s one of one of the races that he obviously has a lot of connection to. If everything is OK, he’ll resume training and he has two weeks before the next block of racing. Next on his schedule is Scheldeprijs, a few days before Roubaix, so that’s what we’re shooting for. You can train, but when you come to a race, with changes of rhythm, the weather and the speed, you cannot really mimic that. We have been cautious. The guy is young, he’s 20 years old. We don’t want him to get a serious injury so early in the season.

VN: So this is not the same problem he had in January?

MT: No, no. That was cleared up earlier. He lost some time of training, but nothing else. Then he had the crash in training in Italy, and he lost some more time of training. Then he came to Catalunya on the tail-end of that training block. He didn’t have more than 10 days of good training after that injury. As you know in cycling, there are no short-cuts. You have to go step by step and build your condition. It’s possible to recover from one injury, but when you have two, it’s more complicated. It’s always harder to get back into the races. We’re happy that he did almost three stages. Now he goes back to a block of training, and then we’ll assess the injury and then move on. Hopefully the bad luck is over.

VN: So the problems are muscular, not something with tendonitis?

MT: His joints are perfect. The first problem was on the back on his knee, it was a muscular injury. The January injury was on the back side of his right knee, the new one is on his left on the inside of the knee. He had new shoes, a new bike; all of these changes can trigger small problems. These are things that happen periodically in an athlete’s career. That’s why riders don’t like to change too much. Young riders in general try to change too much to try to find that magic position. If you have a position that’s relatively good, you have to stick with it.

VN: So part of the challenge for the team is to not push him too hard?

MT: You can try not to push young guys so much, but at the end of the day, with a guy like Taylor, you cannot hold him back. The very talented people tend to push themselves anyway. You try to tell them to go easy, to go step-by-step, but they want to go. That’s why they’re so good. They’re driven. That’s the kind of walk we have to walk, to find the good balance between pushing himself to be ready and not pushing himself too hard.

VN: A lot of people believe he has huge potential in the sport, how far do you think he can go?

2011 Tour of Catalunya, stage 1. Taylor Phinney and Brett Bookwalter

MT: I think he has a huge talent. I see his mom and dad in him. I see a good mix of the qualities of both. He comes from a family that is very dedicated to sport. He got a great education from his parents about cycling. The talent is there. All the little details can make a difference in an athlete. Luck is also a part of it. For us at the team, we try to do the best we can to help him. Sometimes it’s hard with someone who has already won at Under-23, he has this winning background, they have that extra motivation.

VN: Who does he remind you more of, his mother or father?

MT: I am good friends with both of them, so I don’t want to get in trouble! Aerobically, I think he’s a lot like his mom, so that’s why he can do so well in time trials. He’s got the sprint and that comes from his dad. It’s a good mix.