Two young Americans in RadioShack kit have been tackling the roads of the Tour de France with screaming crowds cheering them on, but they’re not in the race — yet. Bjorn Selander, 22, joined the team this year in his first year as a professional, and Taylor Phinney, who just turned 20, has signed on as a stagiare, beginning in August.
Both young men have been staying in Talloires on Lake Annecy with a big group from USA Cycling, including the donors’ organization the Champion’s Club, and riding a lot of the Tour climbs. It’s Selander’s first time at the race. Phinney, whose father raced the Tour in his day, visited in 2004 and 2005.
“Riding up with all the people and all the writing on the road, it’s so exciting,” Phinney said. “It’s cool to be here again, and now I have more intimate access to the big show, so I can pretend to be big time, which is nice.”
Selander said being at the Tour in a RadioShack kit — although on the sidelines — was “awesome.”
“Just having so many people along the roads as you’re riding is such a good feeling,” Selander said of riding the course ahead of the race. “Normally you’re out there and you don’t see anybody. Here, there are huge crowds cheering for you, even though they don’t know who you are.”
Selander’s next races with RadioShack will be the Tour de Wallonie in Beligum, then San Sebastian in Spain. He’ll do either the Tour of Denmark of the Tour of Poland in August, before hitting a few smaller races and then heading to Canada for the two new World Cup races.
“I feel like I haven’t made it yet,” Selander said. “There is so much more that I want to accomplish. You’re strong, you make the team, but that’s nothing compared to other guys on the team. It’s an honor, though, it really is, being on the same team as guys who have accomplished so much. One day I want to be as accomplished as they are.”
Phinney has been racing this year with the Trek-Livestrong under-23 team. This year he defended his world title in the individual pursuit and won the U23 Paris-Roubaix for the second time.
“Next year I hope I can win a couple of races,” Phinney said. “You see guys like Peter Sagan (Liquigas), who’s my age and winning races like stages at the Tour of California. I’ve got the sprint for it. I’ve just got to be able to survive the day.”
Asked if he was comfortable with the mantle of the being the next big thing in American cycling, Phinney was quick to defer to a friend on another team.
“We already have the next great American cyclist, and that’s Tejay Van Garderen,” Phinney said of the 21-year-old rider on HTC-Columbia, who just placed third at the Dauphiné Libéré behind RadioShack’s Jani Brajkovic and Astana’s Alberto Contador.
Van Garderen will be doing the Vuelta a España this year.
In August, Phinney will suit up for RadioShack at the Tour of the Denmark. He says he’s still figuring out what kind of rider he can be.
“I don’t even know what my specialty is,” Phinney said. “As of now it’s classics, time trialing and sprinting. If I can get to a point where I can get over the big mountains, and I can come to a race like (the Tour) and do well. That’s a long way off, but that’s something I can look forward to trying to do.”