PESCARA, Italy (VN) — Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) is pushing through illness and knee pain during the first week of the Giro d’Italia after leading the race one year ago. The 2012 world championship silver medalist played down his chances in Saturday’s stage 8 time trial, saying he just wants to complete his second grand tour and continue developing as a rider.
After a rough ride to Matera on Thursday, VeloNews found Phinney recovering outside the team bus. He stretched and searched to come to terms with riding in another Giro d’Italia. Phinney has fought a virus this week and had a fever on Wednesday night.
“It’s been a rough start in general with my knee problems and allergy issues,” he said. “We’re taking care of Cadel Evans. I’m trying to save energy where I can and I reckon I’ll come good in the last half of the race.”
He continued stretching, which pulled at the kenesio tape on his right knee. The knee forced him out of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) last month. Phinney dealt with tendonitis issues earlier in his neo-pro season, in 2011.
“I’m not sure what it is with my knee, and it messes with your mind a bit,” Phinney said.
Saltara time trial
Phinney won the under-23 time trial at the 2010 world championships and was victorious in last year’s opening TT at the Giro. However, he played down his chances of contending for the win in tomorrow’s 54.8-kilometer test against the clock.
“It’s a stage I’m looking at, but it’s quite difficult,” Phinney said. “It’s not such a straightforward time trial. I haven’t seen the course; all I know is that it’s quite hilly and hard, but there are also some flat, straight sections, which is good for me. It’s a perfect time trial for [Bradley] Wiggins because he has the strength to gain time on the climbers on the straights but he also has the ability to stay with them on the uphills and downhills.
“It’s like last year’s world champs time trial in [Limburg]. Those were one-kilometer climbs but these are two-kilometer climbs, the last climb is a bit longer than the Giro stage.”
Foreshadowing what turned out to be a brutal day in the rain and a GC-upending finale for Wiggins, Phinney said he was looking to survive stage 7.
“I’m just trying to get by, however. Friday’s stage will be a difficult stage, which will be a survival day for me.”
After Friday’s stage, Phinney said he was feeling better, but still wasn’t putting expectations on his TT ride.
“Today, my body has passed the virus, but I’m still a bit down, which is to be expected in the middle of a grand tour; getting a virus is not the best thing,” he said. “I don’t know what to expect. I’m kind of going into it with an open mind. I don’t really have huge expectations, but I’m not limiting myself either. I’ll go out there and do the best time trial that I can. Whether that puts me close to the leaders or 10 minutes down, we’ll find out.”
Survival first for Phinney
Phinney said he expects to be better at the tail end of the race, as he was last year. He was on course to contend in the final-stage time trial in Milan in 2012 before a race motorcycle led him off-course. When asked about his goal for this Giro, he said it was just to finish.
“It’s the main goal,” he said. “It’s going to take me a couple more years to get into the groove of being up [with the] front group every day. It will give me a lot in return over time. I know these first couple of ones are going to be the hardest, the same with these first couple of stages because everyone is a bit fresh. When you get into the last half, it’s a bit more organized. Last year, I rode the last week and started to feel a lot better. I’m learning what it takes with my body.”
Phinney finished talking and climbed onto the bus where Evans waited. While finishing the Giro is his goal, he also wants to help the 2011 Tour de France winner race for the overall win.