It's not on all the startlist sites yet, but BMC's Taylor Phinney, sidelined since a horrible crash in the USA Nats road race last year, is resuming his racing career in the Tour of Utah.
Happy to announce that I'll be racing the Tour of Utah, starting Monday. Thank you to the many beautiful souls who have helped get me back!— Taylor Phinney (@taylorphinney) July 31, 2015
I'm sure a quick scan of the media will turn up dozens of articles about his slow, painful recovery from the compound calamity that was his leg after coming down against a guardrail. It's too awful and otherwise unnecessary for me to recount. Rather, let's turn the page and talk about what comes next. Presumably... not much, not right away.
The Tour of Utah is a decent place for a comeback from a major injury for a strong rider like Phinney. Utah is a strange and beautiful place, which is fine, but for his purposes it's also a place with few roads outside of state highways and long, flat stretches. The outcome of the race will be defined by two or maybe three days of high-altitude climbing (more on that in another post) but the tenor of the race will be pretty straightforward, save perhaps for the Salt Lake City crit on stage 5.
Earlier in the year headman Jim Ochowicz said this about a Phinney return:
"Worlds? Well, we don’t select the worlds team, but if he’s riding well, we have the world team time trial, so we’d love to have him to help defend our title. He’s going to have to race; he just can’t show up at the worlds. He would have to be in Canada, and do something before that, maybe Colorado or the Tour of Poland."
Well, Utah is a bit on the early timetable for his return, which is good news indeed. Or at least means BMC had a spot open on their Utah roster and figured no harm can come of Phinney taking the start. More likely it's a sign he's coming along. From there it seems logical he'd take the start in Colorado, as Ochowicz speculated back in spring, since doing so would give him a week off and not require any long transfers. The alternative would be the ENECO Tour, but that involves an unrealistic one-day transfer to Europe from the finish line, or the Vuelta, which seems like a bad idea given where Phinney is coming from. So smart money is on Colorado for the Colorado native, if his legs allow. Then Canada and worlds. Sounds like the sensible option to me.
Another outcome is that racing doesn't go well at all and rumors of Phinney retiring resurface. I'm mentioning this out of due diligence; with sophisticated data they probably know where his wattage will take him, so it's not like he can't ride. But the guy has been through a lot and who knows what it'll be like for him to race again. My guess is the story ends happily enough for now, albeit without dramatic results. This is cycling, not some cheesy movie. With enough miles in his legs, he might even see some big results again next season.
Anyway, it's great to see any rider overcome the terrible crashes that are such a scourge of the sport, and it's extra nice when it's a popular guy, elite talent (in certain respects) and Friend of the Cafe.