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Phinney signs with Cannondale – Drapac for 2017

The American will focus on the northern classics and time trials with his new squad.

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American Taylor Phinney will depart BMC Racing after this season and join Cannondale – Drapac, it was confirmed Tuesday.

Phinney first rode for the Slipstream organization when he was 15 as a member of Team 5280 Magazine, a development squad. Cannondale – Drapac is based in Boulder, Colorado, where Phinney lives.

Sources indicated in August that Phinney, 26, would be heading to Cannondale after he spent six years riding for BMC.

“I have some close friends that race for the team. And it just generally seems like the team itself has a good vibe. I also met with [general manager Jonathan Vaughters] earlier this year and really connected,” said Phinney, who next year will focus on the northern classics and time trials — including the Tour de France’s opening TT.

“One of the major reasons is to work with Cannondale, as an American bike sponsor. My first bike I got was a blue Cannondale that I got from my parents. My family, we used to have closer ties to Cannondale — when I was a kid, those were the bikes that we rode as a family. So it’s cool to return to that.”

Phinney’s presence on Cannondale’s classics squad next season bolsters an already strong lineup that includes Sep Vanmarcke and Dylan van Baarle. Next summer, Vaughters said Phinney will likely race at the Tour de France and shoot for victory — and the yellow jersey — in the Dusseldorf, Germany time trial.

“As far as the northern classics, Sep is our No. 1 guy,” Vaughters said. “Dylan Van Baarle is the chief lieutenant. So Taylor fits into a little bit more of a support rider, wildcard role in the classics. He’s a little less proven — 260k races, it takes a little longer to fully adapt to those until you’ve done multiple grand tours and have more of a foundation, which he doesn’t really have right now because of his injury. I fully expect him to be in the final 20, 25 rider selection in the classics. Without a doubt. That’s the No. 1 goal for the first part of the year.

“And then the big goal for the second part of the season is the 13km opening time trial in Dusseldorf at the Tour de France. We’re working with Cannondale on the fastest possible bike for him. We’re working with Mavic on new tires and wheel technology. And we’re trying to develop something that’s super fast for him. He’s going to do his half of the equation, and we’re going to try to pull it all together and see if we can garner a yellow jersey in Dusseldorf.”

Phinney’s career went south at the 2014 U.S. championships when he crashed hard on a fast descent while trying to avoid a race motorbike. He broke his leg and considered leaving the sport during his long rehab.

He ultimately decided that bike racing was still for him.

“This opportunity presented itself to bring my career into a full circle in one way. It definitely feels like a fresh new start, which I’m excited about,” Phinney said. “The last few years have been pretty trying, though super rewarding. But at the same time, I’ve been putting a lot of energy into recovering from this ultra-broken leg that I had in 2014. And BMC supported me through that whole process, and I’m really grateful to them for that.”

Added Vaughters: “In speaking with him over the summer, I got the impression that he did want to be a bike racer. His injury was severe and very difficult to come back from. He’s worked incredibly hard to get his leg to function again. At this point, there’s no reason he’s not going to be able to realize his full potential.”

Phinney’s career includes wearing the pink jersey at the 2012 Giro d’Italia after winning the opening time trial, winning the 2014 Dubai Tour, and winning stages at the USA Pro Challenge. He’s also a three-time U.S. time trial champion.