KORTRIK, Belgium (VN) — For a rider who has a budding love affair with the pavé, Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) will finally be making his debut at Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) on Sunday.
With one eye on next weekend’s Paris-Roubaix, Phinney will be racing Flanders to learn and to help BMC captain Greg Van Avermaet.
“It’s a bit strange it’s [my] first Tour of Flanders, but they’re all roads that we know well,” Phinney told reporters Friday. “We’re all for Greg this weekend. He deserves that, he’s been an anchor for the team, but he’s never had the full support of the team. This is his big shot this weekend.”
Now in his fourth pro season, Phinney rolls into this year’s classics season more ambitious than ever.
A fever sidelined him at Milano-Sanremo and E3 Harelbeke, but he rode into the first group at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday.
Phinney is optimistic Van Avermaet will be able to deliver a big ride, and he hopes to be there late in the race to support him.
The 23-year-old said Roubaix’s flat cobblestone sectors are better suited to his build and style of racing than the cobblestone climbs at Flanders.
“The Tour of Flanders has something special about it,” Phinney said. “Physically, I am more adept for Paris-Roubaix, at least right now. Flanders can become more of a specialty as I get older, leaner.”
Phinney missed his first classics season in 2011 due to a knee injury, and in 2012 he was not selected to start Flanders. Last year, with brutal, cold weather, he didn’t want to risk a setback ahead of Paris-Roubaix.
“Any time you get to do a monument, it’s a big learning experience,” Phinney continued. “Even more than Roubaix, Flanders is all about positioning. To make those selections, you have to be in the top 20 riders. In Flanders, the group seems to split and come back together, whereas in Roubaix, it’s hard to come back together.”
At Flanders, BMC will be rallying around Van Avermaet. The Belgian will see the full support in an all-out bid for the podium.
“It gives me a lot of confidence to have the support of the team,” Van Avermaet said. “Flanders is hard. If you hesitate for five seconds, the group is gone and you cannot chase it back. It’s not as if someone has a sign that says, ‘this is the moment, you have to go!’ I hope to do it on Sunday. It’s easy to say, but it’s hard to do.”
Phinney promises to go as deep as he can Sunday to help his teammate, and then reload for Paris-Roubaix next week.
“Roubaix is my biggest goal for this whole classics season,” he said. “Flanders might be a race for me in the future, but Roubaix is what I’ve been working for all winter coming into this spring season.”