Taylor Phinney’s run in pink in the opening days of the 2012 Giro d’Italia put the spotlight squarely on a new gang of young Americans making an impact on the European peloton.
Phinney (BMC Racing) is part of the “third wave” of U.S. riders making inroads into the elite ranks of the peloton. While the likes of Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer are nearing — or passing — 40 with victories still in their legs, the future of American cycling rests firmly on an impressive generation of riders who are posting impressive results.
Phinney isn’t shy about the growing media attention, saying he’s ready to carry the baton into the next decade.
“I am proud to be part of this new generation of American riders,” he said. “We have some good talent coming through and already making results. I think the future is bright for American cycling and I hope to do my part to help grow the sport back home.”
Peter Stetina (Garmin-Barracuda) rode into the white jersey in Saturday’s stage while his teammate Andrew Talansky is a pre-race favorite at the Amgen Tour of California following his breakthrough second-place at the Tour de Romandie.
RadioShack-Nissan’s Ben King and Matthew Busche, along with BMC Racing’s Tejay van Garderen and Brent Bookwalter, both already Tour de France finishers, are among others who are doing their part to deliver American results in Europe’s major races.
Nearly all of them have come through USA Cycling’s U23 development program, a pipeline that’s been paying producing for years.
Garmin sport director Allan Peiper is especially keen on the next generation of U.S. riders. Garmin has long supported young U.S riders and Peiper says that tradition would continue.
“There are some very talented American riders right now in the peloton, on our team and other teams,” Peiper said. “It’s one thing to support young riders, but at the end of the day, they have to deliver results. That’s the name of the game. And I see a very bright future for American riders.”
Here is Peiper’s take on three of Garmin’s young Americans:
Alex Howes: “He’s a real surprise. He is always bubbling over with enthusiasm and excitement. That enthusiasm, that can get you somewhere as a bike rider. With [neo-pros], you never really know what they can do, so if he keeps the enthusiasm for racing and keeps that hunger, he can go far.
“He reads the race really well. When we tell him to be in the break, he’s in the break. With some guys, you can tell them for years and years, and they’re never in the breakaway. That’s already a big, big plus. He’s still very young. How much more he can develop, it depends. Maybe he doesn’t have the biggest motor on earth, but the fact that he can read the race and has the legs to do it; and he’s got that enthusiasm, that will win him a lot of races in the future.”
Peter Stetina: “He rode really well in Catalunya. He was one of the key members of the team that helped us win the team classification there. He rode well at Basque Country, but crashed unfortunately. He had a good couple of weeks to get ready for the Giro. I think he’s going to do well at the Giro. How well, that’s to see. It’s all about development and building on what he did last year. He looks great. He’s full of confidence. I think he’s going to go well. Last year, he was almost top 20 in his first grand tour. That’s a great sign of what he’s capable of. Sometimes trying to rein him in is the biggest part.”
Andrew Talansky: We’ve had him on ice until now. We had him in some smaller races. He’s been saving up for Romandie, California and Dauphiné. This next period is going to be crucial for him, for his confidence, for his place in the team, for his development. He didn’t have the pressure at Romandie, and he just went out there and raced, and look what happened. At California, he will be there with Tommy [Danielson], he will be riding for GC. For the Dauphiné, [he’ll be racing] with a deep field of guys, getting ready for the Tour. That will be a great test for him with a long time trial.”
Weather: Chance of showers
Cooler temperatures, with highs in upper 60s, with a 50-percent chance of afternoon showers should make an already technical finale even more nerve-wracking if the skies open up.
Tomorrow’s stage: After two hard days of racing, the 95th Giro d’Italia continues Monday with a relatively mild stage that should see a mass gallop. The 166km ninth stage from San Giorgio del Sanno to Frosinone features no rated climbs, but the stage is far from flat. A string of short, unrated hills in the final 10km should liven up the finale.
Never ones to keep things too predictable, Giro organizers have added a fast, technical challenge in the closing 5km that should test the bike handling skills of everyone in the peloton. There’s a fast downhill run with 2km to go that will send the peloton barreling into the red kite.
The course sweeps with about 600m to go before hitting an almost inexplicable sharp left-hander at about 300m to go onto a narrow finishing straight that seems all but assured to provoke a crash. Positioning will be key through that final corner.