Come 2019 Taylor Phinney will be crushing cobbles at the Spring Classics with EF Education First Pro Cycling Team as he will return to the team next season. As Phinney eases into his off-season we chat about the drama of the Hell of the North, how the Tour de France is like playing Call of Duty, and superpowers.
Take us through this year, what’s been the highs and lows?
From a professional standpoint the highlight of my year was definitely Paris-Roubaix and being a factor in that race. I’ve wanted to be up there and wanted to be riding with those guys for my whole career, so it was cool to have the stars align for that one and have a good day.
I always enjoy the Tour de France and finishing always feels good, although this time wasn’t so great finishing with a broken face, so I didn’t have as much energy to celebrate. I had to go to visit the doctor the next day, but I don’t even think that was a low point; there haven’t really been any.
Why do you like Paris-Roubaix so much?
I think I always had a strong passion towards Paris-Roubaix, there’s just something about that race. There’s a level of drama it has that doesn’t exist in any other race on the calendar. It was always the race that I looked forward to watching before I started racing it. I mean the races in Belgium are part of the same family and they fit into the same category but in my eyes they’re just not on the same level as Paris-Roubaix.
But if you talk to Italians or Belgians, Tour of Flanders is the be-all-and-end all and Paris-Roubaix is just an afterthought for whatever reason. But Paris-Roubaix is my jam and I think it’s sort of the last type of race that I can be good at. In this sport you see the trend of the races are changing and getting harder and hillier and more suited to smaller riders. So we kind of have these last races to hang onto to hope to do well at, for me that’s Paris-Roubaix. It’s the one race I do all year which I’m not at a weight disadvantage, because I just weigh a lot more than everybody else being 6 ft 5.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen in the peloton this year?
Probably the Tour de France tear gas day, that was the craziest thing. Yeah, that was a trip, I felt like I was in a video game. It was like I was playing Call of Duty or something, because you went through this protest they broke up and then all of a sudden you’re like, ‘I can’t breathe’ and then you’re having trouble seeing and everyone else is coughing around you. The old alarm bells start to ring in your head, you’re like: “What the hell is happening?”
You’ve extended with the team. How have you found riding for EF Education First?
I mean I love it, there’s no other team that I could envision myself racing for in the professional peloton. I feel like I can be honest with everyone around me and myself, and there’s not a ton of expectations thrown on you, on what you need to be and what you need to look like, and how you need to act. They just let you explore yourself and let you be who you want to be.
The team obviously want to win races and do well and that’s a priority, but there’s not this cookie cutter that you need to be a certain way or ride your bike a certain to be on the team, which you’ll find on a lot of other programs.
When you heard about some of the new, offbeat races the team will line up for next year, what did you think?
I think that it is the greatest thing ever. I mean when we were first hearing little rumors about the change and that Rapha wanted to come on board, it felt like all these different ideas that I had been talking about with friends, all these adventures I had been thinking about, it was like someone had read my mind.
If you were able to shotgun a race next year, which one would it be?
Dirty Kanza! I would really like to do Dirty Kanza.
Describe EF Pro Cycling team in one word…
If you could have any superpower what would it be?
There’s a lot of responsibility in that question. I mean, my gut instinct is to say I’d like to fly but that is kinda selfish. Actually I think I’d like to be like the moon and manipulate the tides. I’m not sure what I would be able to do with that but I’m sure I’d be able to figure something out.
It doesn’t have to just be the sea, it could be water in general…
Yeah, because inside your body is 70% water, if I could manipulate that, you know how weird I could make people feel all the time, it would be dope. I think I actually just created a new superhero [still to be named].