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GREENVILLE, South Carolina (VN) — Taylor Phinney had a tough day in the saddle after a rough week leading into his title defense at the USA Cycling National Professional Championships individual time trial on Saturday.
The 20-year-old BMC Racing neo-pro, who could manage only seventh place in the race against the clock, said he struggled to recover from the hardest race of his life and is tired of talking about the problems that have marked much of his rookie season.
“Excuses, excuses, I just didn’t have it. I wasn’t able to recover as well as I hoped from the Tour of California,” said Phinney. “I gave everything I had, but it wasn’t really enough today.”
Phinney finished the Amgen Tour of California a week ago with a sixth-place stage result, his fourth top-10 of the race, in the bunch sprint in Thousand Oaks. Since then he had two rough travel days, a fever of 102 degrees on Tuesday and an effort to open his legs on Friday. Phinney described his troubled week, but didn’t want to make excuses for a ride he called disappointing.
“The Tour of California was the hardest race I’ve ever done. Recovering from that was imperative and my body just wasn’t really ready for this effort today,” he told VeloNews. “I have more years in me. It’s disappointing. I wanted to come in here and at least try to get a medal. (David) Zabriskie’s been on fire the last couple weeks, so I knew he would be hard to beat, but to miss out on the top three is pretty disappointing.”
Despite giving his best effort, Phinney said things started to unravel on the second of three laps and he just didn’t feel right on the bike.
“There was a fair amount of fidgeting on my bike that I don’t do normally,” he said. “I started to get a side cramp and that doesn’t happen very often. The legs felt heavy and blocked. I wasn’t able to recover and had to stop pedaling on a couple of the descents to get as much recovery as I could.”
Phinney returned to the team hotel after the race and expected to be spend the afternoon trying to get over his failed title defense. He’ll then turn his attention to Monday’s road race, where BMC has four real threats, including him, for the win.
“This has definitely opened the legs up for Monday,” he said. “I should technically be fitter than I’ve ever been before and I’m lighter than I was last year. We’ll see what the team’s plan is, but if it comes down to a group sprint, I’ll definitely be vying for the win. That would be good redemption, either for George (Hincapie) to get up there or myself to get up there.”
Coming off his national championships and world U23 time trial title, Phinney turned professional with BMC Racing in January. A persistent knee injury, a concussion suffered in training near Lucca, Italy, and a hard crash in the time trial at the Tour de Romandie have been major obstacles for him this spring.
Nevertheless, Phinney told VeloNews last week that coming into the season overconfident and undertrained has been a big learning opportunity. He hoped to turn the page after Saturday’s letdown.
“I have so many times this year that I’ve made excuses and had problems, so I’m kind of sick of talking about my excuses and my problems. Hopefully everything will come around and I’m pretty excited next week to do the (Critérium du) Dauphiné prologue,” he said. “The focus now is Monday and trying to get over today. I just didn’t quite have it.”