The most anticipated professional debut for an American in a generation is set to roll next week. Taylor Phinney will make his first start for BMC Racing at the Tour of Oman February 15-20.
“I got my plane ticket this morning,” Phinney told VeloNews. “My fitness feels relatively good even though I’ve had to rest more than I’d optimally ever want to… It’s a race that suits me. It’s not a race I’m going to come out and win, but it’s a good starter for me in my season and as a pro.”
Phinney missed a planned start at the Tour of Qatar this week after dealing with tendonitis in his knee and food poisoning at the BMC Racing camp in Denia, Spain. Phinney posted a pair of top-10 results in Qatar last season and had circled that race as a priority on his early season calendar. When he was able to ride just two days at camp in January, the 21-year-old U.S. time trial champion was forced to pull the plug.
The multiple-time world elite and U23 champion began training again on the final day of camp and has felt good sensations since. On Wednesday, Phinney closed a pain-free block of four-to-five hour training rides by motorpacing with teammates Chris Barton, Chad Beyer and Chris Butler behind director Max Sciandri’s Hummer H2.
“At the end of (yesterday’s) session, I just told Max to give it to us as fast as we could go… My SRM read 87.7 kph,” said Phinney. “The knee didn’t hurt at all after or during that effort and I knew that I was set.”
Phinney will travel to Oman Friday evening and his BMC teammates will arrive from Qatar Saturday night. As for his expectations in his professional debut, Phinney was reserved.
“I’m not really sure (what to expect),” he said. “A lot of it is about getting a couple racing kilometers in the legs and at the end of the day we’ll see what’s going down with the race. If I can go for the sprint myself or help Alexander Kristoff or Greg Van Avermaet, we have a pretty good team. (Marcus) Burghardt’s been riding really well at the Tour of Qatar.”
The 18km final-stage time trial will give Phinney his first test against the clock since winning the U23 world time trial title in September. “I could pull a result out of a bag if I have a really good day,” he said. “We’ll see if the legs can come around after five or six days of racing.”
More than anything, though, Phinney is looking to jump into the deep end to get his pro career going. “It’s a little launch pad into the season and then it’s on from there,” he said.