SIENA, Italy (VN) — Taylor Phinney (EF Education First-Drapac) made his 2018 debut at a muddy Strade Bianche on Saturday, while looking ahead toward Paris-Roubaix.
Phinney wants to return to the Queen of the Classics on April 8 after missing it last year due to a concussion suffered in the Tour of Flanders the Sunday beforehand.
“It’s all eyes on Roubaix for sure,” Phinney told VeloNews. “I feel strong in my body and I’m about to go on a seven-week whirlwind tour from here until the end of Roubaix and I’m looking forward to what’s up. Calibrating the frequencies to see where all of these dudes are at and how I compare.”
Phinney won the Under 23 Paris-Roubaix twice and rode three editions in the professional ranks before a leg fracture in the 2014 U.S. national road championships nearly ended his career. After returning, he fought his way back into the classics teams, racing Paris-Roubaix again in 2016.
Last year, he dealt with a knee injury to begin the Tour of Flanders, but was “frustrated” by a nasty crash that ruled him out of the race and Paris-Roubaix. The bright side is that he made his debut in the Tour de France later in the summer and wore the polka-dot jersey.
“I did [miss Roubaix] last year, but I was also heavily concussed so I was stoked to just being lying on the couch and not sad,” he added.
The rain continued to fall on Saturday morning in Siena for the start of Strade Bianche. Phinney appeared happy and in a good mood, helped by the bright pink EF Education First-Drapac kits.
The 2018 season was on the horizon beginning with the 184-kilometer race with its gravel road sectors arriving in the city’s famous Piazza del Campo. After delaying his debut and missing the Abu Dhabi Tour last month, Phinney soon started Strade Bianche to get the wheels rolling.
“I just got sick, I think my body just wanted to reset, I had a really nice winter and I was going full-gas and it was time to race, and I woke up sick on the day I was to travel [to Abu Dhabi]. Fortunately, the team just let me chill at home and now I’m here,” Phinney said.
“[Strade Bianche is] unique, it’s its own race. I think we all wish there were more races like this one. Personally, I don’t like the opening weekend [with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne] because it’s super sketchy. I think three out of six classic seasons that I’ve done I ended my classics season on that one. So yeah, when you come to Italy you get to eat pasta and it’s all good.”
The pasta party will continue with Italian races Tirreno-Adriatico next week and Milano-Sanremo on March 17. His “whirlwind tour” continues in Europe’s north with the E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
“Roubaix is the one I ‘enjoy’ the most,” Phinney added.